Railways begins process to build Fire Exit Doors for Trains

Fire and smoke detection system in 2750 coaches. Pilot project will choose 10 Coaches and Rs 30 Lakh will be spent on each of them

New Delhi: In its endeavour to prevent fire mishaps on trains, the Railways has undertaken steps to equip over 2,500 coaches with state-of-the-art fire and smoke detection system. The railway ministry for the first time has begun the process of having fire exit doors for train coaches to help passengers escape in case of a fire incident and also to allow train staff to evacuate passengers quickly. The railway ministry will be picking up 10 coaches for this pilot project and will be spending Rs 30 lakh on each of these coaches to build these fire exit doors.

The thought of having fire exit doors in trains came up as part of a high-power study and research into train fires conducted last March by the railways’ Centre for Advanced Maintenance Technology (Camtech) headquartered in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It was one of the recommendations of the study apart from having bigger emergency windows for non-air conditioned coaches and also to have vestibules to connect general coaches so that people can move from one coach to another in case of a fire.

According to officials, the fire exit door is a good progress in a railway system that for several years now has had nothing to show as part of its fire-fighting mechanism apart from red-grilled emergency windows in general coaches. In fact, it is just of late that the railways has been toying with the idea of having thermal insulating material for latches and handles of doors so that passengers can hold them and open doors to escape a fire. The latter is also one of the recommendations made to the railways by the Camtech study.

“It is a good start because the railways safety record when it comes to fires is poor. Moreover, passengers also travel dangerously by sometimes smoking near the toilets and vestibules. There are also instances of people carrying liquor in trains. The railways should be severe on such passengers,” said Bhandup-resident Manish Chaturvedi.

Why train fire is dangerous

1) A train consists of long, narrow vehicles with limited exits coupled with each other

2) High traveling speeds prevent quick escape and assist the rapid spread of fire

3) Wide range of track conditions, including confined sections such as bridges, tunnels, ghats, etc., make it difficult for passengers to get off the vehicle easily in times of emergency

4) Restriction in movement of passengers and fast spread of fire aggravates the situation

5) A large number of passengers traveling on trains are attended to by a small team of train crew

Railway Board in 1987 set up an institute known as CAMTECH to undertake studies and evolve strategies for maintenance of all types of assets. Accordingly CAMTECH started functioning from 1991 onwards at Gwalior under the administrative control of Director General, RDSO, Lucknow with a main objective of   Upgrading maintenance Technologies & Methodologies and achieve improvement in productivity and performance of all Railway assets and Manpower. This covers reliability, availability, utilisation and efficiency. CAMTECH is headed by Executive Director who is assisted by four Directors – one each of Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and S&T, apart from Staff. The present incumbents:

Camtech study recommendations

1) Fire extinguishers should be provided in all coaches, i.e., also in general second class coaches, non-AC 3 tier coaches and non-AC chair cars etc.

2) The size of emergency exit windows in General Coaches/3-tier sleeper coaches/non-AC chair car shall be of larger size as in case of AC coaches so that it can be identified easily and easy to exit as these coaches are highly occupied

3) Vestibuling in the general coaches may be explored, this will help in evacuating passengers in case of any disaster/emergency

5) Authority to be given to AC mechanic to ask passengers to not to smoke

6) Overhead water tanks of toilets may be provided with fusible drain plug. In case of fire this fusible drain plug will melt due to high temperature and water will spill out in door way area which may reduce the intensity of fire.

Download/Read RDSO’s Handbook on Fire Causes & preventive Measures in Railway Coaches, here!

Besides, fire extinguishers are being provided in all AC coaches, second class-cum-guard and luggage vans and pantry cars. Water mist type fire suppression system is also being provided on power cars.

A pilot project for provision of Comprehensive Fire and Smoke Detection System has been taken up in New Delhi- Bhubaneswar Rajdhani, New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Rajdhani and in the AC Double Decker running between Kachiguda-Tirupati/Guntur, a senior Railway Ministry official said.

He said railways has now sanctioned extended field trials of the fire detection system in 2,750 coaches based on the feedback from earlier trials.

As per corporate safety plan (2003-2013), target was to reduce fire accidents on the trains significantly by the year 2012-13.

In 2012-13, nine fire accidents took place on trains and in the current year till January 31, 2016 there has not been a single such case on trains, the official said.

In order to enhance fire safety, Railways has made mandatory the use of fire retardant furnishing materials in all coaches.

Specifications for such furnishing materials have been periodically reviewed to incorporate fire retardant parameters in line with UIC (International Union of Railways) and other international norms.

He said all new manufacture of coaches/periodical overhauling of existing coaches is being carried out factoring in fire retardant specifications of the furnishing materials.

Steps are also being taken for the use of improved materials for electrical fittings and fixtures, light fittings, terminal boards, connectors to prevent short circuit.

Detailed instructions have been issued to all zones for observance of safe practices in handling of pantry cars and for ensuring periodical inspection of electrical and LPG fittings in the pantry cars.

Intensive drives are being carried out regularly to prevent passengers from carrying inflammable goods.


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