Railways new 'signal' system to cut your wait time for a local train by half

Updated: Sep 02, 2019, 07:37 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar |

Officials say system makes use of tele-communications between the train driver's cabin and track equipment

This picture has been used for representational purpose only
This picture has been used for representational purpose only

If there is one thing the railways are almost always brainstorming on, it is how to run the maximum number of local train services in a day. Turns out the only practical solution in the available infrastructure is apparently by introducing a new signalling system. The system, the railways says, can cut the time between two trains arriving at a station by half.

The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has thus undertaken the Communication-based Train Control (CBTC) project as a part of Mumbai Urban Transport Project 3. Also known as cab signalling, it involves setting up a communications system inside the driver's cabin. The MRVC has begun inviting consultants to implement the system. The idea is to get the system up and running in the next three years.

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Subodh Jain
Subodh Jain

The new signalling system will ensure that the gap between two subsequent trains will be cut down, thus facilitating more trains on the same network. The present headway of trains is approximately 3 min 48 sec on the fast corridor and 3 min 36 sec on the slow corridor. With the introduction of CBTC, a headway of 2 minutes (operational headway of 2.5 minutes) on all corridors is being aimed at. This would result in increasing the capacity of passenger traffic by 30 per cent to 50 per cent, a senior MRVC official explained.

Explaining the procedure, a senior railway official said that the CBTC makes use of the telecommunications between the train and track equipment for the traffic management and infrastructure control. The main objective is to increase capacity by reducing the time interval between trains. The work of implementation is planned to be carried out on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT)-Kalyan, Churchgate-Virar, and Harbour and Trans Harbour lines of Mumbai suburban section. The work has been sanctioned under MUTP-3A.

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Former railway board member (engineering) and ex-General Manager Subodh Jain said, "The CBTC- communication-based train control allows wireless communication between the train and control centre and train and track and vice versa. This communication can further be extended to control the train operations. This can permit driverless operation and precise control on the train running." The downside, he said, is that there will be no physical obstruction on the track or platforms.

How does it work?

The CBTC system involves linking all trains in the system using radio frequencies. This will mean they will be able to communicate with each other too. It will do away with the traditional signals put up on fixed poles, where trains stop or slow down. With all trains being able to communicate, the drivers of all trains can ensure safe distance from each other.

The MRVC proposal is seeking consultants to appoint a contractor for the Rs 5,900 crore-project and wants them to study the existing system of train operation, time table, maintenance facilities, and stabling facilities of the Mumbai suburban system and suggest measures required for train operations during the implementation of CBTC. They will also need to suggest a time schedule and implementation plan for the project.

Time between trains expected with new system

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