Railways to fit sensors on tracks to help train avoid accidents

Low visibility caused by dense fog during winters cause several accidents, resulting in numerous deaths and heavy damages, but this mode of transport is expected to become safer soon as Indian Railways is mulling a plan to fit sensors on tracks to help train avoid accidents.

The sensors on tracks will warn trains of any impediment on tracks in dense fog, which causes low visibility.

Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that sensors would be installed as part of the ministry’s efforts to ensure safety of passengers.

Revealing the under-consideration project, Mr. Bansal said, “The technology involves installing a chip on tracks which would sense an approaching train and warn it of any obstruction.”

The Minister claimed that the sensors would be able to warn an approaching train of any obstruction, such as an immobile train on the same track, from a distance of nearly one kilometer.

Mr. Bansal also said that Railways would also fence tracks, starting with the Delhi-Agra track. It would be done in the PPP model where private players would be allowed to put up their bill boards.


Rail Board for reducing duty hours of drivers

Reducing duty hours of mail/express train drivers to six hours (they encounter a signal every minute on an average) to monitoring the crew on his first trip after having availed rest (since most of the signal-jumping cases have occurred after the train drivers have availed headquarter rest) are among the suggestions that came up during a recent meeting on SPAD (signal passed at danger) convened by the Railway Board.

The meeting was attended by chief mechanical engineers of all zonal railways and one mechanical loco inspector from each division and was addressed by Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal and other high officials.

The meeting followed the recent spate of train accidents including the one involving the Hampi Express on May 22 leading to the loss of 25 lives.

Pressure has also been mounted on the Railway Ministry by the All-India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) for improving safety measures in view of the frequent train accidents.

A communiqué containing the minutes of the meetings and various suggestions made by the participants has been circulated to the General Managers of all the railway divisions in the country.

It was suggested in the meeting that since the loco pilots (train drivers) were found to be above 55 years of age in majority of the cases of jumping of the signal by trains, the retirement age of drivers should be brought down to 55 years.

It was also suggested that links should be made in such a way that there are not more than 2-3 continuous night duties for train drivers.

Efforts should be made so that the running staff (train drivers) was not made to perform more than six hours duty between 10 pm and 6 am, it was suggested.

It was also suggested that retro-reflective board indicating the type of signal with arrow towards the relevant line should be provided at each signal post. In case, there are more than two lines, the signal post of additional line should be of different colour. The name of the station should be written on signal posts of station signals.

The participants also asked for ensuring proper time tabling so that margin for acceleration or deceleration is available depending on the load and gradients and incorporating a concept of loco recovery (making up for lost time) in the working time table.

Suggestions made in the meeting also included subjecting drivers to breathalyzer test before embarking on a journey and counselling their families on the ill-effects of alcoholism. It was also suggested that train drivers should be protected from being arrested in case of accidents as this causes anxiety and increases the stress level of drivers.

“The crew should be counselled not to work under pressure since he has to operate the train under maximum permissible speed now that the concept of booked speed is no longer there. Safety has to be given priority over punctuality,” said the communiqué.

Proposals of Railway Board meeting
Reduce duty hours of mail/express train drivers to six
Monitor crew on first trip after having availed rest
Retirement age of drivers be brought down to 55 years
Not more than 2-3 continuous night duties for drivers
Subject drivers to breathalyzer test before a journey
Drivers shouldn’t be arrested in case of accidents


Axle counter to prevent train accidents

KOLKATA: Tracks outside Howrah station have been fitted with a device that would reduce the possibility of an accident similar to the one that occurred in Sainthia on July 19. The digital axle counter will inform controllers when a train has entered a particular stretch. The railways have tried out other devices including analog axle counters in the past but these were prone to malfunctioning, particularly during the monsoons when tracks get inundated.

Axle counters work on a simple but sound logic. The device is fitted at the ends of a particular stretch. As a train enters, it counts the number of axles that pass. The sensor at the other end also counts the number of axles that move out of the stretch. Unless the counts from both ends match, the device does not give clearance for another train to enter the stretch.

A couple of years ago, K K Bajpayee, adviser (signals), Railway Board, had submitted a paper on Emerging Trends in Signalling on Indian Railways. In his writing, Bajpayee had explained the importance of digital axle counters.

“The maintenance of track circuit poses problems in station yards where track maintenance and drainage is poor. To overcome these shortcomings, axle counters have been employed. These are based on analog technology and reliability is limited as is their acceptability by the user. Modern systems using digital technology and telegram transmission from track device to the evaluator, are now available offering high reliability,” he stated in the document.

Apart from imported versions, a variant has been developed by M/s CEL. Known as the Single Section Digital Axle Counter, this has been approved by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO).

“Unlike analog counters, the digital ones can be used for all types of track circuiting. They have a software that not only collects the readings from both ends but also compares them. When the count becomes equal, decision is taken to show the particular stretch as clear’. The system is helpful in monitoring a complete section,” a senior signalling engineer said.

Sources said that the system may be introduced elsewhere once they are tried out at Howrah. Senior Eastern Railway officials were not ready to reveal much about the system though. One of them said that the railways is not keen to advertise’ the system as there is a risk of pilferage or sabotage.

“Security will have to be enhanced wherever this system is introduced. If there is any tampering with the sensors, the whole system will be affected,” the official said.


New Delhi, Jan 15 Aimed at curbing train accidents, the Railways have undertaken various safety measures, including installation of anti-collision device (ACD).

As a result of sustained efforts over the years, the number of consequential train accidents remained below 200 during the last two years.

There were 195 accidents in 2006-07 and 194 in 2007-08 despite substantial increase in traffic volume carried by the the Indian Railways.

In the current year also during April to November 2008, the number of consequential train accidents decreased from 138 to 117 in comparison to the corresponding period of the previous year.

ACD has been installed on 1,918 km of the Northeast Frontier railway and its further installation on more routes is being considered.

Under the safety drive, most of the work of replacement of over-aged assets like tracks, bridges, rolling stock and signalling gears have been completed from the non-lapsable Special Railway safety Fund of Rs 17,000 crores.

Production of crash-worthy coaches has already started and their production will be further increased in the coming years, according to a release.


Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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