MRVC lays the groundwork for ₹5,900-crore Signalling system

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has started preliminary work towards the implementation of the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) system on the Mumbai suburban network. The CBTC is a state-of-the-art signalling system, which will improve the efficiency and safety of operations. The project is part of the ₹33,690 crore Mumbai Urban Transport Project 3A (MUTP 3A).

The MRVC has proposed to implement the project on the slow and fast corridors on the Western Railway between Churchgate and Virar, on the slow and fast corridors between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Kalyan, and on the Harbour and Trans-Harbour Lines.

The project aims to improve the frequency, thereby reducing overcrowding on trains. At present, trains on an average run at a peak frequency of around 3.5 minutes, which MRVC officials said, will be brought down to around 2.5 minutes after the project is implemented.

“By increasing the frequency between trains we should be able to run more services every hour, which will ease the strain on the existing infrastructure,” an MRVC official said.

At present, there are 15-17 services during peak hours, which officials said, will increase to 20-22 after the CBTC comes into effect. The system can also potentially allow driverless operations of local trains. The signalling technology is currently being implemented across all Metro corridors in the country. The key difference in implementing the project as opposed to the Metro is it would be a brownfield project, which means the system would need to be implemented on the existing infrastructure.

“On Metro corridors, the CBTC system is implemented at the time of construction. This project will be a challenge to implement on the suburban railway network as it will need to be executed while operations are under way. Moreover, new solutions should be found as long-distance trains and goods trains run on the same tracks along with suburban trains,” an MRVC official said, adding in all likelihood, the Harbour and Trans-Harbour Lines will be undertaken first for implementation as there are no long-distance passenger trains or goods trains sharing space with local trains on those corridors.

The MRVC last week floated tenders to appoint general consultants for the ₹5,900 crore project, who will assist the MRVC in selecting the contractor.

What is CBTC?

In a CBTC system, all trains within a railway network are connected and communicate with each other using radio frequencies. The system moves away from traditional fixed signalling, where trains stop or slow down depending on the colour on the signal, and adjusts the speed of trains dynamically. The location of each train is communicated to the train behind it to maintain a safe braking distance at all times.