Railways plan Automatic Door closures on Main Line Trains

Indian Railways is mulling installing automatic door closures in Main Line Trains to prevent incidents of passenger falling off the train during a train journey. This is in view of the Allahabad High Court judgement which was later upheld by the Supreme Court. This is the biggest challenge for Indian Railways  if to be implemented with good intentions and not just with the purpose to avoid contempt of court.

Why it is a big challenge?

Presently automatic door closures are provided on urban metro system passing through the tunnels where it is not possible to keep the minimum clearance between the coach body and tunnel. There had been many discussions in Indian Railways exploring possibility to  provide  automatic door closures in EMU trains. This was for the reason that falling of passenger from running trains is the maximum from EMU trains during peak hours because of the passenger hanging outside the coach.  It was technical most suited because of the communication wire connection between the coaches. But this could not be considered practical till such time the present level of super dense crush loading ( 16 passengers/m2) is reduced by having all 12/15 coach train and increasing frequency to reduce the loading to the level of crush loading (8 passengers/m2). This day is still to come.

Proven and sustainable technologies of automatic door is available but the challenge is to implement. Following are the challenge for Indian Railways to address the issue.

  1. There are about 56000 main line passenger coaches requiring wiring for communication line to operate the door from Engine and Brake Van. Today this provision does not exist even in Rajdhani/Shatabdi type trains which are otherwise connected to feeding electric power supply to the coaches from power cars fitted with DG sets located at each end of the train. This will require modifying 224000 doors certainly a gigantic work.
  2. Falling of the passenger is a concern mainly in  general coaches and not AC coaches. Therefore, the first priority of providing automatic door closure is on General coaches. For this purpose, many of coaches (AC and non AC)  that forms a complete train to be modified for provision of automatic door closure.  Such coaches than shall work in same train formation.
  3. Presently the number of passengers per general coach goes up to 300 passengers and closing the door means  requiring additional ventilation measures.
  4. Automatic door closure and opening is either through pneumatic or electric control. In metro urban trains, the door are temporarily locked for opening during a failure situation. Due to total train connectivity, it does not impose any evacuation issue.   Failure of the control mechanism in main line coaches will call for temporarily closing one door which will reduce the evacuation capacity by 50% ( There are only two doors opening at the platform side). If the door is normally kept open, it may be disastrous to passenger safety.
  5. Uncoupling of communication line will result non-operation of the door
  6. It will be necessary to modify all the locomotives in operation by loco pilot with communication coupler. Modification of the few locomotives will not work because in case a locomotive becomes defective, the replacement locomotive may not have the provision.
  7. To convince loco pilot and guards  to operate the doors as an additional responsibility.
  8. There is other alternative to have manual operation button to open or close the door by passenger as per need from outside as well as inside. Considering the traffic density, the system will be difficult to operate and maintain.

What can be other alternative  plan?

The above issues can be taken care by designing wireless remote-controlled door operating mechanism where the power supply is taken from coach battery and pneumatic supply from feed pipe. The prototype design to be developed and tried on General Coaches with operation from Locomotive as well as Brake Van. There is no proven technology in this field but for the similar purpose in another field is available. The following are the challenges in this plan as well

  1. To develop the technology
  2. To decide the department in Indian Railways to own the responsibility i.e. development of design, installation and maintenance.
  3. To provide redundancy for 100% fail proof system
  4. To counsel the passenger to entrain and detrain in time. It may be difficult to board once the doors are  closed.
  5. To decide on the system of functioning during Alarm Chain  pulling, whether to open the door automatically or remotely or no action

With so many challenges, it is very unlikely that automatic door closure  system will be introduced and challenge will be “how to avoid contempt of court?”.

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