New system to prevent train accidents gets green signal

Jan 21, 2013, 07:20 IST | Shashank Rao

Train Collision Avoidance System will activate braking system if trains come on the same track or overshoot signal

With the focus on enhancing safety, the railway authorities have decided to boost the onboard train warning and collision prevention systems in trains. The Railway Board will shortly be commissioning the advanced Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) on the entire rail network in the country, including on trains in the city’s suburban rail network. 

The European-type safety mechanism, which is quite an advanced and sophisticated system, would be installed to prevent breach of red signals and will automatically bring a train to a halt if it comes within a certain proximity of another train on the same track. Currently, the Auxiliary Warning System (AWS) does the job on the suburban section of both Central and Western Railways. 

AWS makes a beeping sound if a train overshoots a red signal, and if not shut by the motorman, then the automatic brakes are activated to bring the train to a stop. However, there is no protection in case a train comes close to another from the rear. This was evident at Mahim station in August 2009, when an Andheri-bound local train rammed into the rear of a stationary train at platform 1, after the motorman applied the brakes a little too late.

Sources said that TCAS takes care of this issue too, and would automatically activate the brakes if it detects any problems. “TCAS will be fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) that would monitor everything,” said a senior railway official, on condition of anonymity. TCAS will control railway stations, signaling systems and trains, which will include suburban, long-distance, goods, diesel and electric trains.

Railway officials added that whenever TCAS has to bring the train to a halt if it detects a dangerous situation, it will first reduce the train’s speed and identify the nearest signal within the range of 200 metres with the help of RFID. It will then ensure that the train stops close to this signal.

The railways have already begun the initial trial of this safety mechanism on the South Central Railway section, which officials’ claim is a success. “Until now six firms have shown interest in developing this system,” said AP Mishra, Member (Engineering), Railway Board.  

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