System based on Radio Waves: Railways to test European Signalling System

The railways has already tested the ETCS level 1 on 342 km (Agra-Delhi, 200 km; Chennai suburban railway, 117 km; and Kolkata’s Metro Railway, 25 km). Now the 850-km route between Mathura and Vadodara is opted to test the European Train Control System.

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways has selected the 850-km route between Mathura and Vadodara to test the European Train Control System (ETCS) level 2, as part of the transporter’s plan to modernise the entire signalling system on its network to enhance safety, a key focus area. Installations for the test will cost the railways more than Rs 2,000 crore.

The railways has already tested the ETCS level 1 on 342 km (Agra-Delhi, 200 km; Chennai suburban railway, 117 km; and Kolkata’s Metro Railway, 25 km), wherein locomotives are fitted with screens that receive intermittent messages about signals ahead through track-side devices. This mitigates the risk of locomotive pilot’s error of running over signals due to fog or human error, or over-speeding as the locomotive comes to a halt upon making an error.

In level 2, messages are conveyed continuously to the screen fitted on-board a locomotive through radio waves. According to a railway official, the per km cost of implementing the ETCS level 2 is 30% higher compared with the ETCS level 1.

Testing of the level 2 is part of the railways’ Rs 78,000-crore plan to change the signalling system across its 66,000 route km. Railway minister Piyush Goyal had backed the idea after taking over last year, and had advocated to implement the system in one go across the network.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reportedly turned down the plan as the system was untested in the country and had asked to test in few sections before deciding on pan-India implementation.

“Since a lot of money was involved, directions were given that the railways should begin the trial with a busy section. So, we have decided to pilot this between Mathura and Vadodara, which is a Rajdhani Express route and is quite busy. We chose this section over the Mughalsarai section as there are some works going on, such as modification of yards in that section. This (Mathura-Vadodara) section has less construction activity,” said the railway official.

Since the cost of the project is more than Rs 1,000 crore, the railways will require a Cabinet approval. However, before approaching the Cabinet, it will be cleared by the Railway Board and then the NITI Aayog and the finance ministry will take a view. The railway is likely to finanlise the proposal soon and approach the Cabinet.

While the ETCS level 1 system was fitted in 35 locomotives, ETCS level 2 will be tested in more number of locomotives as the distance between Mathura and Vadodara is 850 km, compared with Delhi and Agra, which is 200 kms, said the official.

The ETCS level 1 was implemented by Ansaldo STS, a Hitachi group company. “For ETCS 1, the annual maintenance contract (AMC) is with Ansaldo because the initial contract had provisions for three years and then has to be renewed. Though we are parallelly trying to develop the skill to repair the system in case of faults, spares will have to be bought from the service provider through its manufacturing unit in India,” said the official.

Other companies having the technology include Siemens, Thales, Alstom, Bombarider and Memec group. The AMC charge is around 3-5% of the initial contract size per year. The AMC for ETCS level 2 will also be with the implementing agency for three years.

The railways is also testing homegrown Train Collision Avoidance System in a 250-km stretch in the South Central Railway.