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Indian Railways’ First ‘SMART’ Coach is Out, 100 More Coming Soon: 8 Facts to Know!

The Railways is pushing the boundaries in terms of technology.

The Railways is increasingly pushing for digitalisation of its operations. They introduced POS machines on trains, which provide comprehensive bills. They’ve also made it possible to change your boarding station online. In yet another initiative to push the innovation envelope forward, the Indian Railways has decided to roll out smart coaches.

To mark National Technology Day, the first smart coach will be revealed today at the Rae Bareli Coach Factory as a pilot project. After the trial run, the Railways looks to implement this in many more coaches.

The Railways has rolled out SMART coaches for better journeys. Image Credit: Northern Railway
The Railways has rolled out SMART coaches for better journeys. Image Credit: Northern Railway

The objective of the smart coaches is simple–be proactive, instead of reactive. The coach has a provision to constantly monitor critical components, especially those known to cause harm to rail infrastructure, as well as delays and derailments. The system will provide real-time updates so that maintenance schedules can be planned effectively.

The project will cost an additional Rs 15 to 20 lakh per coach. Some components like CCTV cameras, a passenger information system, fire extinguishers, etc. have already been implemented.

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Here are eight things to know about the SMART Coaches.

1. The coaches have a Passenger Information and Coach Computing Unit (PICCU), a CPU that resembles an industrial grade computer. This is equipped with a GSM network, that sends ‘exception reports’ to the remote server. PICCU will monitor four important areas of coach maintenance and passenger interface.

2. The coaches have a sensor-based on-board conditioning monitoring system (OBCMS), to detect defects related to passenger coaches, and tracks on a running train.

3. The coaches have a ‘vibration-based power harvesting system’ on the axle box that will help predict wheel defects, bearings defects and hard spots (defects) on a track. This will allow the Railways to plan maintenance as per need, and prevent line failures.

4. The coaches will have a CCTV system, with an Artificial Intelligence capability, to improve security standards of the train, and monitor railway staff behaviour. The footage will be helpful in tracking untoward incidents.

5. The coaches will also have a GPS-based passenger announcement and passenger information system and a digital destination board. The passenger information system will keep passengers informed about the train’s real-time location, expected arrival time at the station, and train speed.

6. The coaches will have a coach diagnostic system that can monitor the braking system, to detect any issues. The diagnostic system will give updates to maintenance staff.

7. The coaches will have an interface with parameters like air conditioning, fire detection and alarm system, a disc brake system. There is also a water-level indicator ensures that train maintenance staff gets real-time updates on the need to refill water.


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8. The coaches will have black boxes–a first for the Railways. These will provide all kinds of information on coach conditions and passenger-related data in real-time.

The Railways is optimistic about these SMART coaches, as the overall maintenance cost will come down thanks to the sensor-based system, which will notify the Railways in case of an impending fault. We are confident that the state-of-the-art SMART coaches will be a quantum technological leap for the national carrier.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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