CRB stresses for Zero Tolerance to Signaling Failures on Indian Railways

Expressing serious concerns over the number of accidents involving trains, Chairman, Railway Board, AK Mital today called for zero failure in signalling systems at the Two day International Railway Convention on “Advances in Command, Control and Communication Systems for Main Line, Metro and High Speed Transit Systems”

CRB MitalNew Delhi: Expressing concern over the number of accidents involving trains, Chairman, Railway Board, AK Mital today called for zero failure in signalling systems in the two day International Railway Convention on “Advances in Command, Control and Communication Systems for Main Line, Metro and High Speed Transit Systems” that began today, organised by Institution of Railway Signal and Telecommunication Engineers (IRSTE), (India) and Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE), (Indian Section) in association with Indian Railways.

The conference was opened by a keynote speech by the Chairman of the Railway Board, Shri A.K.Mittal and Member Electrical Shri Naveen Tandon. The event was also attended by Addl. Member (Signal), Shri S.Manohar, Addl. Member Telecom, Shri K.S.Krishna Kumar, Hon. Secretary IRSTE & CAO/IRPMU Shri Kundan Choudhary and other dignitaries.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman Railway Board Shri A. K. Mital said that Signaling & Telecom constitute the brain-power and software for railway system. Safety and orderly movement of traffic is critically dependent on the type and reliability of the signaling and telecom equipment. Indian Railways has over the years vastly modernized its signaling and telecom systems by extensive use of electronic interlocking, OFCs, Colour Light Signals and Automatic signals. Railways today deploy the state-of-the-art signaling suited for our system of working. We have installed modern Electronic interlocking at more than 5000 stations and almost eliminated end-cabins. Communication system which is the backbone of the train operation is mostly an extensive network of OFCs. We have set up a specialized company, RailTel, which not only meets all the in-house requirements of the Railways but also has ventured into the adjacent areas in Telecommunications and carved out a reputation for itself. S&T inputs have helped us to optimize capacity utilization in a mixed traffic environment where different kinds of passenger and goods trains with different speed and operating characteristic run.However, we still have a long way to go in achieving zero failure in equipment and in migrating to a system which eliminates human error altogether as in the case of advanced railway systems in the world. In future, we have to think of centralized traffic control, cab-signaling and ATP (Automatic Train Protection). All these technologies are available but we cannot simply take and transplant them on Indian Railways. A lot of work is needed to tailor and customize the technologies to our requirement and to make them sturdy and robust under Indian conditions.

Stating that more than 60 per cent of total accidents in Railways occur at unmanned level crossings, Mital asked the Signalling and Telecommunication (S&T) wing to come up with low cost but highly effective solutions to the problems.

“There are more than 60 per cent of total accidents in railways occurring at unmanned level crossings almost every 48 hours.  S&T department should work out low cost solution to the problems,” he said at a seminar here.

Criticising signal failure incidents, he said, “There are about 100 signal failures of our lakhs of signalling daily. Though failure is minimum, it is not acceptable. It has to be zero-failure signalling system. We have to have a system which is free from failures.”

“Today we are fully depending on loco pilot for safety. If the driver blinks for a moment, then there should be a technology to support him,” he said.

Mital also expressed concerns over the slow pace of installation of train collision avoidance system (TCAS), and stressed on the need to expedite it to curb mishaps.

“TCAS trial is going on for the last three years,. Now time has come to complete the trial on the 250 km section in one year,” he said.

TCAS is indigenously developed by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and its trial is going on in Delhi-Agra section and Chennai suburban route.

Mital said that our Signaling & Telecom team has done pioneering work by developing a Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). This can potentially achieve all the functions of ATP in the Absolute Block Signaling territory at a fraction of the cost. He called upon to expedite the field trails and take early measures to adopt it for the benefit of Railways.

Mital hoped that today’s convention would provide our officers a platform to share their experience and expertise and also learn from a similar good work done by their counterparts from other railway systems.

In his address Member Electrical Railway Board Shri Navin Tandon said that Indian Railways is having a determined vision to modernize its infrastructure by induction of state-of-art and user friendly technologies, with a view to bring in radical improvements in line capacity, safety and efficiency.

Signalling & Telecommunication Engineering provides for a whole range of technologies to provide cost effective solutions in enhancing Safety and Line Capacity and disseminating train running. While we have initiated steps for installation of fire alarm systems, it is high time to use Fire Suppression system in future to avoid repetition of such cases. I would also request experts attending to deliberate and find effective steps and methodology not only for preventing, detecting and suppressing the fire hazards but also on strategies so as to have faster recoveries God forbid if such incidence occur again. Indian Railways under the modernization plan for signaling and telecom assets have adopted modern S&T solutions like centralized operation of signaling system, Block Proving by Axle Counters etc. Throughput enhancement has been achieved by providing Automatic Block Signalling and IBS on high density routes. This has resulted into increased safety and line capacity.

Indian Railways is facing line-capacity constraint on many sections. Hence, we have to find new solutions to create additional line capacity on urgent basis. This conference will deliberate on Advances in Command, Control and Communication systems for Main Line.

Metro and High Speed Transit systems with the main objective to increase capacity by safely reducing the headway between the trains. With these kind of systems, the position of a train is accurately known and thus it results in more efficient and safe utilization of assets.

However, these systems make use of open standards for wireless digital communications which can be subject to various types of hacking including intrusion in the communication network and tampering with safety critical message which in the worst case can result into a safety hazard. Suitable techniques for securing open networks must be carefully analyzed and adequate controls must be implemented to protect the system from such malicious attacks.