Advanced Fire Detection system for Rajdhani, Humsafar and for the upcoming Tejas Express

Shaken from its slumber by a number of fire accidents on trains, railways will finally introduce an advanced multi-level fire detection and response system in premium trains like Rajdhani Express. In the last 30 years, around 500 people have died in fire-related accidents on trains and have left hundred others injured.

The railways is also planning to equip all air-conditioned coaches used for overnight journey with the early warning fire detection system, sources in railways said. The advanced fire detection system will also be installed in other superior trains like Humsafar and the upcoming Tejas Express.

Senior officials in railways said the national carrier is prioritising safety in train operations over everything else and the decision comes as a result of it. On December 28, 2013, an air-conditioned coach of the Bangaluru City-Hazur Sahib Nanded Express caught fire near Kothacheruvu in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh resulting in the death of at least 26 people and injuring 12 others.

With the advanced system, a train will stop in case of a fire incident as brakes will be applied automatically. If the smoke rises beyond a particular level, announcements will be made and hooter sirens will ring in the affected coaches. The announcement in the affected coaches would inform passengers that the brakes have been applied, and that they should not panic but disembark safely from the coach once the train comes to a complete stop. Besides, all power cars, pantry cars, locomotives of special services would also be equipped with high-pressure, water-mist fire suppression systems to protect the expensive equipment from being burnt in case of a fire.

Early warning of a fire event can prevent panic and loss of life and damage to assets, minimising disruption of services, a senior official said. In the present fire-detection system in trains, the response time is slow, pre-alarms are too late, detection rate in high airflow is poor, and performance gets affected by soot and dust.

In the advanced fire-detection equipment, the central monitoring system will be in the power car. The fire detection system will be connected to the central monitoring system where technical personnel will be stationed. The technical staff is required to investigate if there is actually a case of potential fire in that particular coach. An announcement followed by hooter takes place in the affected coach after a delay of 55 seconds.

A senior railway official explained that the display of the central monitoring system shows all the coaches with unique identification number on its screen along with the alarm status and graphical display of smoke level. In case the smoke level rises in a coach, the flasher light gets activated to alert the technical staff and indicates the coach number which may be affected.

If the smoke level rises further and reaches level 2, the flasher light gets activated in the affected coach and an audio visual alarm at the CMS prompts technical staff to take necessary action. If the smoke level rises further to level 3, the brake application takes place automatically.

Some Train Fire Accidents
  • December 28, 2013 – An air-conditioned coach of the Bangaluru City-Hazur Sahib Nanded express caught fire near Kothacheruvu in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh resulting in the death of at least 26 people and injuring 12 others
  • November 22, 2011 – Howrah – Dehradun Doon Express caught fire in which at least seven people were burnt to death and several others were injured. Around 2 am, coach number B1 of the Dehradun-bound train caught fire. Later, the fire spread to coach B2. Both coaches were badly burnt, but all the casualties were from B1.
  • August 1, 2008 – Gowthami Express supposedly got short-circuited and fire broke out in midnight when the train crossed Kesamudram station in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. Those wakened by the sounds escaped by pulling the emergency chain to slow down the train, but 40 people lost their lives in this incident.