Mumbai: Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu keen on new signalling system

Feb 22, 2016, 11:42 IST | Shashank Rao

The Communication-Based Train Control system will help improve frequency; upon total implementation, officials say frequency between two trains will be down by 90 secs

Three days from now (February 25), union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present his second rail budget, in which there are two projects awaiting approval for Mumbai. These are the Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel suburban rail corridor, and the Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) system. The latter is said to be a breakthrough for improving frequency of the dense suburban system, and for this, a workshop was arranged for officials on February 17, by the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC).

The first CBTC system has been proposed on the CST-Panvel Harbour line at a cost of Rs 4,500 cr. File picture for representation
The first CBTC system has been proposed on the CST-Panvel Harbour line at a cost of Rs 4,500 cr. File picture for representation

Even though the CBTC system is yet to be approved in the budget, Prabhu had hinted at its approval, as in his speech on February 17, he had said, “CBTC is the future of signaling and will emerge as a solution for Mumbai”. The workshop took place in Mumbai — it was attended by officers from both Central and Western Railways — and an official from the Railway Board in Delhi read out Prabhu’s speech via video conferencing.

More services
The first CBTC system has been proposed on the CST-Panvel Harbour line at a cost of Rs 4,500 crore. The railways claim that the frequency of trains shall drastically improve with it, as the headway between two trains would come down from the current 240 seconds or more on the Harbour line to 150 seconds. Officials who are studying this system claim that if it is implemented in totality, then the headway or frequency between two trains would come down by 90 seconds.

This would mean that in the current situation, 18-20 train services operate per hour, and this will augment to 35 services or more after CBTC is in place. But there is a flipside to it. Railway officials feel that this system will work only if the Harbour line is made trespass free; especially keeping in mind the recent deaths of school kid Gaurav Vora at Sandhurst Road and the four labourers who died near Kurla.

“At least 65 percent of deaths on tracks occur due to trespassing. With the frequency of train services improving drastically, proper impenetrable walls need to be built along the rail line,” said a rail official. Moreover, there are level crossings at few stations, that are open for vehicular traffic and people. But the slums along the railway lines make trespass deaths more susceptible.

“The CBTC will help us double the number of train services. But level crossings need to be eliminated,” said S K Sood, General Manager, Central Railway.

At present the Central Railway (CR) has asked the MRVC to procure around 18-20 air conditioned rakes that would have the CBTC system in-built. These will replace the existing rakes plying on the Harbour line – currently there are 36 rakes – and then the two systems will be merged. Each AC train with in-built CBTC will cost between Rs 100-120 crore.

The officials said that in a congested rail system like in Mumbai, CBTC would allow them to run trains more frequently. But for that they would not only need to make changes in the tracks and signaling, but will also have to get new rolling stocks or rakes. “The system by itself might cost Rs 1,000 crore but when we look at it holistically including the new rakes and changes on field, it would go up to Rs 4,500 crore for the proposed one on the Harbour line,” said Prabhat Sahai, Chairman and Managing Director, MRVC.

The railways will also keep the existing system as all trains won’t be fitted with CBTC. Sources said that under these circumstances, the train will move at a controlled speed and its operations will also be merged with the existing system, where brakes are applied in case a red signal is breached. At the workshop the companies presented this technology in place across other rail systems in the world. They also suggested a kilometre long test track and simulation centre in Mumbai where the CBTC system can be tried before it is implemented.

How CBTC works
>> It eliminates the physical signaling system that has signal systems every 400 metres on the suburban section

>> The special trains will be installed with a wireless communication device that carries radio frequencies from 2.8 to 5.6 GHz

>> Two trains will communicate and ensure that a specific distance is maintained and in case of trouble, automatic brakes will be applied

>> There are four different parts to this system, namely a control room, a device inside the train, one on the tracks and other on the platform

>> It also allows running of driverless trains

>> It would cost around Rs 7 crore per km in a green field project (where land is freely available, there is no need for rehabilitation of people etc) but for implementing it in a city like Mumbai where the suburban system is operational, the cost will double

What Suresh Prabhu said
Mumbai is a congested network with 8 million commuters. Over the last 60 years the passenger growth has been over 1,200% while train services have increased by 380%. New lines have been laid but then there is no space available. CBTC is the future as it is cost effective. It will take 3-4 years for completion that can give headway of 2 minutes from the existing 3.5 to 4 minutes. It will emerge as a solution for Mumbai.

Go to top