VNIT students develop Real Time Fault Detection System for Rail tracks using OF Technology to detect rail fractures

Nagpur (NGP): Electrical engineering students of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) have developed a ‘fault detection system for railway tracks using optical fibre technology’. In case terrorists blast away railway tracks, or the tracks split due to any other cause, this system can detect the fault in real time and send suitable alerts to train drivers using GSM control system at each station. The researchers are further working on an intelligent software for re-routing trains without causing much chaos and delays after detecting a fault.

The students have made a prototype of the monitoring system, which detects any damage caused to the railway tracks and warns the train driver immediately, preventing any mishap between two stations. They plan to extend it to a bigger system, which would have monitoring systems at all stations and a central control station.

Prof B S Umre, the students’ guide, told that the students presented their technology at the Texas Instrument’s Innovation Challenge held at Mumbai and won the semifinalists award with a cash prize of $200 (about Rs 12,500). Umre said that though there is an advanced anti-collision device (ACD) network in place with the Indian Railways, it still depends on the pilot van, which is a slow and risky process as the protection comes at the cost of the persons manning the van.

Team leader Rahul Chaudhary explained that the existing technology used by railways relies on electrical conductivity and ultrasonic imaging techniques to detect rail breaks. But these techniques also have their limitations. The imaging technique can give a false alarm as the system is not very accurate. Also, it may sometimes fail to detect the fault.

“Hence, the innovation by us holds more promise. The only hitch in our technology is the huge cost associated with optic fibre, which will run along the entire track. But considering the life of over 50 years of the cable, the cost works out to be very less. Additionally, the cost of the cable is very meagre compared to the compensation paid by the railways for deaths in each accident. The technology definitely deserves a try, at least in sensitive areas, as it will save thousands of lives every year and the loss of train bogies,” said Chaudhary.

The team which worked on the project includes Ashish Ghatge, Rohit Salem, Shubham Wagh and Aditya Vidolkar.


Optical fibre covered in metal casing is fixed all along the length of the rail.

The system basically consists of a pulse generator and pulse detector on both ends between any two railway stations

In normal situation, the pulse generated from pulse generator is detected by the detector and recorded continuously. But in case of a fault caused due to a break in track the signal gets interrupted

This generates an alert signal, which is wirelessly received by the control station

The control station automatically sends SMS to the train driver to respond accordingly


New a pilot engine before the train

Scheduled monitoring possible only

Train schedule gets affected as it has to be halted


* No human intervention is required
* Continuous monitoring — fault is detected as soon as it takes place in real time
* Results are more accurate
* Best suited security system for bullet trains because of its speed and accuracy


* More research work would lead to complete health monitoring of tracks and trains running over it
* Hybridizing with other technologies available for fault detection can help get details of type of fault occurring on the track
* Use of special software for rescheduling trains in case fault is detected