Train Collision Avoidance System

Train Collision Avoidance System

September 14, 2013

The number of train accidents and the resulting loss of human lives are on the rise, as revealed by the Railway Board figures. The railway authorities should immediately take precautionary measures, especially at the unmanned level crossings, so that precious human lives are not lost.

  • Railway Board has documented that deaths due to train collisions was maximum (239) in 2010-11.
  • Of the total number of deaths in 2010-11, 64 per cent was on account of collision.
  • Out of the 49 deaths due to train derailment, 13 were in 2007-08.

Rightfully, the Railways pursued with devising an anti collision device. But like most things in our country it became a time consuming affair and train accidents were on the rise. Mamata Banerjee, in her first term as Railway Minister in 1999, had approved the introduction of Anti Collision Device. After ten years, while delivering her Rail Budget speech in 2011, she commented that ACD had only been implemented in the North East Frontier Railway zone.
Anti Collision Device (ACD) is a train collision prevention system invented by Rajaram Bojji. Konkan Railway Corporation Limited under the Ministry of Railways, Government of India has patented the device. ACDs have knowledge embedded intelligence. They take inputs from GPS satellite system for position updates and network among themselves for exchanging information using their data radio modems to take decisions for timely auto-application of brakes to prevent dangerous 'collisions', thus forming a 'Raksha Kavach (meaning a (Train Safety shield).

ACDs fitted (both in Locomotive and Guard's Van of a train) act as a watchdog in the dark as they constantly remain in lookout for other train bound ACDs, within the braking distance required for their relative speeds. They communicate through their radios and identify each other. If they happen to find themselves on the same track and coming closer to each other, they automatically restrain and stop each other, thereby preventing dangerous head-on and rear-end collisions.

The Timeline

2010: In October 2010, then Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the Railways have developed an ACD and it would be introduced shortly. She had cited that train passenger traffic had increased from 1.08 crore to 2.20 crore in last few years and safety of passengers was of paramount concern.
2011: While delivering her Budget speech in 2011, then Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee had promised ACD will be implemented in eight of the country's 17 railway zones to improve the safety of rail passengers. Implementing ACD was a long standing demand of the passengers across the country after several major train accidents in the recent past. Several countries like South Africa, China, Russia and Singapore have also evinced keen interest in the ACD project.
2013: After deliberating for two years, Indian Railways has now decided to go with Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and has granted contracts to two firms out of a list of six. As a pilot project it would be installed in the 200 km stretch in the Vikarabad – Bidar section in the South Central Railway zone. The pilot project would cost around Rs 18 crore and the trials would take place in early 2014.

Medha Servo and Kernex Microsystems were selected among six contenders, including a few multinational companies, by the Research, Designs and Standard Organisation (RDSO) of the Indian Railways on behalf of the Railway Board.

The Technology

TCAS is a combination of Train Protection Warning System (TPWS), a European technology that protects trains against signal passing at danger, and anti-collision device developed by Konkan Railway that avoids collision in mid-section.

"TCAS is developed in RDSO and it is very cost effective for us. While TPWS cost about Rs 70 lakh per km, TCAS is just about Rs 10 lakh," said a Railway official. Fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the device would automatically activate the brakes if it detects any problems on the track.

Indian Railways is one of the world's largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track over a route of 65,000 km (40,000 mi) and 7,500 stations. Indian Railways runs about 10,000 trains daily. Needless to say this entire mammoth network needs to come under the Train Collision Avoidance System.

200 km stretch under the pilot project is expected to be complete by February 2014. Question is being raised about the expected timeframe required to extend the new system to the entire Railway network. The previous Minister of Railways has been mired in corruption charges. Such distractions hurt the functioning of the Railways and often delay vital decision making. ACD that Mamata Banerjee had said yes to in the year 1999 and the upcoming Train Collision Avoidance System aim at resolving from the same concern - to avoid collision on the tracks. TCAS is an extension of the old system that improves upon the deficiencies of ACD.

Vision 2020

In the iconic Vision 2020 for Indian Railways tabled by Mamata Banerjee, the former Railway Minister said, “Safety is a challenge but a close -to -zero accident goal is attainable. This issue has to be addressed with proper planning and determination.” She reiterated that her target was to achieve Zero accidents. This underlines the stress laid on safety and the earnest vision to move Indian Railways to a safer zone. With fast speed trains on the anvil, Train Collision Avoidance System needs to be put into place on a priority basis. Delays and shifting of systems must be stopped. Comprehensive decisive action is required without further delay.

200 km pilot project looks to be a miniscule target in comparison to the entire network of 115,000 KM. The fear of chopping and changing of leadership is now a constant feature in the Railway Ministry. Corruption issues are also on the rise. Hiring of right talent is a prerequisite for the highly specialized jobs being done flawlessly.

Parting Thought

Leadership is a key issue in progress, upgrading and implementation plans for Indian railways. The Government at the centre is on the verge of getting dissolved and one can only hope Railways find a Minister dedicated and committed enough to take it ahead.

Vision 2020 is a valuable document and can form the backbone for progress of Indian Railways.

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