Railways moots automatic train-protection system to avert mishaps

Representative Image. (Photo: PTI)
In a bid to prevent accidents that have grown frequent in recent times, the Indian Railways is set to introduce technology that will ensure that a computerised system will take over the running of trains, if drivers miss signals or speed. The automatic train-protection system could be launched across the country in a year.

“A trial run is on in the Hyderabad division. We expect a national launch in a year’s time,” said an official. This is part of a safety roadmap drawn up by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.

“The technology will ensure there are no collisions. Our focus is to adopt technology and improve asset reliability to reduce human dependence,” the official added.

There are two such systems: A warning system used by European railways and a collision-avoidance system adapted for India. A proposal for introducing the first system on 3,330-km routes, and the second system on 1,427-km routes has been cleared by the railways.

Goyal has also instructed Railway Board officials to speed up the introduction of Linke-Hofmann-Busch (LHB) coaches that come with anti-collision technology. 

The railways will stop producing coaches at its Integrated Coach Factory from April next year. Of the 63,000 coaches in the Indian Railways, 53,000 are reportedly unsafe.

India has only 6,000 LHB coaches, used in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.

Indian Railways claimed the record of having the least number of accidents at 0.09 per million train km in 2016-17, with only five nations ahead in terms of safety. “This figure has improved from 0.2 accidents per million train km in 2012,” the official added.

Compared to 27 deaths and 25 injuries in the April-August 2016 period, rail accidents led to 37 deaths and 166 injuries during the same period of 2017. The government had in the 2017-18 Budget announced the setting up of a Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore for a period of five years.

The railways are also planning to introduce ultrasonic fault detectors to detect track fractures. The ultrasonic fault detector has been tested in the Allahabad division. Training of railwaymen will be revamped and the railway safety directorate will be converted into an auditing body, with the onus of safety being transferred to the engineering department.

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