Budget 2018: Govt to overhaul railway signal system for locomotive drivers

Indian Railways
The government is likely to announce an investment plan to overhaul the age-old concept of red and green signalling codes for railway locomotive drivers.

The plan, aimed at addressing safety loopholes, is estimated to cost Rs 600 billion to cover the entire country and might be announced in the Budget.

Six foreign companies, including Alstom, Analsdo, Siemens, Bombardier, and Thales, are the major players in the European Train Control System (ETCS) technology that would be introduced as part of the plan. The ETCS is being tried out on a 342-km stretch on the Gatiman Express, covering the Delhi-Agra route, and the suburban rail system near Chennai.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said: “We are planning to completely overhaul the existing signalling system. This is for the first time in its history that the railways will be doing it.”

Though the minister did not give further details, a person close to the development said the programme needed a new financial modelling as it required a huge fund infusion. “It could be taken up in phases. But the minister is of the view that a bigger plan with surety of purchase order could bring in economies of scale,” he said.

One way to finance the project would be the annuity model, where payments to the companies are staggered. The programme would soon be put up for the approval of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

On the right track 

* India has the 4th-largest rail network in the world after the US, China, & Russia

* Indian Railways has a track length of about 116,000 km, covering close to 68,000 km 
* For renovation, the govt has lined up Rs 8.5 trillion for 5 years starting from 2014-15


* It will be an automatic train protection system, based on the European Train Control System technology (ETCS), used in major developed countries. The system helps reduce errors during signal passing and prevents speeding

The ETCS system has a dashboard for the driver with a bar that tells the distance the locomotive can moving ahead without being in danger. Besides, it has a speedometer that sets the speed limit in green and shows the travelling speed in yellow. The moment a train over speeds, a red alert sign will flash on the dashboard. If the driver continues to travel at a higher speed for 5 km, brakes would be automatically applied. Currently, train drivers do not have any technological support. He is dependent on the signals displayed ahead of stations. During fog and inclement weather conditions, a slight error of reading can lead to an accident.

“Over the years, there were some changes in the signalling system. But this time, we are bringing in a global technology,” said an official.

The line clearance under ETCS would continue to be given by the station master. The system requires a device on train and relies on track and train interface. It has two technological levels — while first involves placing balise, an electronic transponder on the rails that makes the interface possible, the next level is through automatic radio communication between train and the stations it touches.

Another experiment called the centralised traffic control (CTC) with electronic interlocking and automatic signalling system is being set up on the Ghaziabad-Kanpur route. This is a 410-km electrified route that is used by 200 trains a day. The CTC system will help in real-time monitoring and better management of trains. It provides for remote operation of signals from the centralised traffic control office.

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