Mumbai tops in Signal Jumping; Harbour Line to see fewer failures with Switchover

Mumbai: A disturbing trend of safety lapses by trains running on Central and Western network has emerged. According to official records, trains in Mumbai jumped red signals on 70 occasions in the past three years, as against an all-India figure of 168 for the same period.

The violations assume significance considering the fact that over 70 lakh Mumbaikars use the trains every day and that most of the trains have been connected with the automatic warning system (AWS), which can stop a locomotive in case of an unauthorised movement. Central and Western railways run nearly 2,900 services a day.

Called signal passed at danger (SPAD) in railway lingo, the incidents are the result of a number of factors – technical and human error. Senior railway officials said they are constantly making efforts to minimise risk and the occurrences.

Between 2013 and 2015, 39 cases of SPAD were recorded on the Western line, while the Central railway saw 31cases of lapses. An SPAD can result in a minor derailment or spell a disaster, in the form of a collision, if a train is moving fast. The numbers also show that maximum number of SPADs happen in Mumbai, about 41 per cent, in the country Officials said not all SPADs cases can lead to a mishap because they are the result of minor misjudgements of distance or braking, or when a train is moving very slowly. In most cases, the trains stop within the safety overlap provided at the signal, said a senior officer from Central railway. But the figures startled commuters.

“High number of SPADs in Mumbai is a very serious issue. The railways should take it seriously because it concerns with safety,” said Subhash Gupta, a member of the zonal railway users consultative council committee.

“The actual risk associated with an SPAD depends on many factors, including whether there are controls in place to stop a train from moving ahead, how far a train has travelled into another block or whether that block is occupied by another train,” said Subodh Jain, a former member of engineering, railway board.

The ex-official also attributed the higher number of SPADs to a large number of signals in Mumbai.

A train can jump signal due to a host of reasons such as inattention, fatigue, misreading of an adjacent signal due to line curvature, miscommunication with a signaller or a poorly lit signal, said a senior railway official. “Unusual happening in the mid-sections are also one of the reasons and they create a lot of pressure on train drivers.”

Sunil Kumar Sood, general manager of Central railway said SPADs have always been of a cause for concern. “We are continuing our efforts to reduce instances of SPAD.”

Harbour Line will see fewer failures with Switchover

Central Railway (CR) may carry out test-charging of 25 KV alternating current (AC) traction this weekend, as it plans to switch from 1,500 V direct current by March 31.

ALTERNATING CURRENTA senior official said, “We may encounter minor failures on the Harbour line for a few days soon after the switchover to AC as the system takes time to stabilize. But the Harbour line will in the long run become efficient as the AC traction is less prone to failure.”

The official said, “We plan to carry out tests on the night of March 12-13. A six-hour block will have to be undertaken on the Harbour line, so some morning services may be affected on March 13.” CR will release the block timing and its repercussions on train schedules once a decision on the test-charging is taken.

The Harbour and Trans-harbour lines are the only corridors on the Indian Railway which run on 1500 V DC. The switchover will ensure that the entire railway network operates on AC traction.

The Harbour line operates 590 services a day but it can increase as more AC-compatible rakes come into its stable next year.

The official said, “The conversion of rakes from DC to make them compatible to run on AC traction is going on satisfactorily. CR operates Harbour line services with 36 rakes, of which 33 are ready to run on AC traction.” AC traction will also ensure energy savings.

CR said it plans to start 12-car services for Harbour in May-July.

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