In its ongoing attempt to make trains more safer and avoid accidents, the Indian Railways cleared a proposal to equip electric locomotives with the latest European train protection system costing over Rs 12,000 crore.
The Railway Board, in a meeting held on December 15, gave the green signal to equip over 6,000 electric locomotives with European Train Control System (ETCS) Level-II. A senior Railway Ministry official spoke to IANS saying this technology would help drivers or motor pilots to avert rail mishaps.
Apart from the introduction of the system in 6000 locos, the Board will also install the ETCS Level-II system on the entire 9,054 km-long Golden Quadrilateral route connecting the four metros.
The rationale behind the move is to make the Golden Quadrilateral route a fully accident-free corridor, the report said.
Many accidents in the past have been attributed to the locomotive pilots’ error. But what is important to note is, they work under extremely stressful circumstances. This new system will help them heave a sigh a relief.
The system currently in use for the Indian Railways is a basic automatic train protection system.
It is called the ‘train protection warning system’ and is based on the ETCS Level-I specification. It can only provide backup to loco pilots on a limited stretch.
The ETCS Level-I is already functional on 342 km of railway route. The Gatiman Express which runs between Nizamuddin and Agra, at a speed of 160 kmph currently uses it.
But this system is in need of an urgent upgrade to match international standards and become safer for passengers.
Currently, in the ‘train protection warning system’ information about what upcoming signal displays (red, yellow or green) is shown on a display screen called DMI (Driver Machine Interface) in front of the loco pilot.
But the ETCS Level-I system is limited. It only passes this information to the loco pilot when the loco passes over a device called ‘Balise’ that is fitted in the middle of the railway track at pre-decided intervals.
So there is always a chance that significant communication is delayed. Also, updated information about the signal doesn’t reach the loco pilot until he passes over the next Balise. This can jeopardise safety.
The ETCS Level- II bridges this gap. The introduction of the ETCS Level-II will also eliminate the requirement of Balise fitting in the middle of tracks for communication of signal status.
It ensures that the information or status of the signal ahead is made continuously available in the loco through a wireless radio medium using a GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communication-Railways) network.
Thus, since the information of the signal is available to the loco-pilot at all times, pilots can run the train more safely and efficiently.