The devastating train collision that took place in Odisha on Friday (2 June) has resulted in one of the most fatal accidents the country has witnessed.
The incident has tragically claimed the lives of at least 288 individuals, leaving more than 900 others injured, as per reports.
Once again, this incident underscores the importance of implementing strong safety measures and consistently enhancing infrastructure and operational protocols.
These measures are crucial in averting train collisions and safeguarding the well-being of both passengers and railway staff.
In order to mitigate train accidents on India's busiest and frequently utilised rail routes, the Indian Railways has been actively working on the development of its own Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System known as ‘Kavach’.
What Is KAVACH?
Kavach was developed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) under Indian Railways in collaboration with three Indian vendors — Medha Servo Drives Pvt Ltd, HBL Power Systems Ltd and Kernex Microsystems.
It has been adopted as our National Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System. Since 2016, the Railways have been carrying out field tests for Kavach on passenger trains.
As part of the new system, railway tracks, signalling systems on railway tracks and the engines of trains are installed with radio frequency devices that continuously send signals back and forth on a real-time basis to indicate that the track on which the train is operating has no obstacles.
The system is certified for Safety Integrity Level-4 by reputed international safety assessors (ISAs). Similar safety systems are followed in other countries.
At the moment, Kavach uses ultra-high frequency radio waves but the Indian Railways is working to make it compatible with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and develop the product for global markets.
Further operational improvement of Kavach is in the works, including change over from Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communication to LTE-4G communication.
How Does The System Work?
Kavach serves as a valuable aid to Loco Pilots by providing assistance in avoiding Signal Passing At Danger (SPAD) and overspeeding incidents, while also facilitating train operation during difficult weather conditions such as dense fog.
This system effectively controls the train's speed and automatically applies brakes when required, particularly in situations where the Loco Pilot may not be able to do so.
As part of the system, obstacles that are up to 10 km ahead will be detected by devices installed on railway tracks.
Railway tracks will be equipped with pressure sensors capable of detecting weights exceeding 500 kg. These sensors will then transmit signals to the train's engine, prompting the automatic application of brakes.
Subsequently, the devices installed in trains will receive these signals and reduce the train's speed to a maximum of 30 km per hour, after which the driver of the train can bring the train to a halt.
Kavach features include transmitting line-side signals to the train cab, which is beneficial in high-speed and foggy conditions.
It updates the train's movement authority and can automatically sound the whistle at level crossings.
The signals between track devices and trains use unique radio frequencies, enabling direct transmission without relying on a central server.
Roll Out So Far
The Indian Railways plans to install Kavach across 2,000 rail route networks in 2022-23 and over 4,000-5,000 rail route networks every subsequent year.
The Railway Board has approved installation of Kavach technology along 34,000-kilometre rail route.
A Rs 272.30 crore budget line item has been set aside for the installation of armour technologies in 2022–2023. Kavach received a release of Rs 133 crore in the most recent fiscal year, 2021–22, as per reports.
The Indian Railways conducted trials of the 'Kavach' system on the Absolute Block section of Lingamapalli-Vikarabad-Wadi and the Vikarabad-Bidar — 250 km section of the South-Central Railway.
Following the successful completion of these trials, three vendors were approved to receive developmental orders from Indian Railways.
Currently, Kavach has been deployed on more than 1,098 route kilometre and is operational on 65 trains running under the South-Central Railway, after undergoing successful trial runs.
However, in case of the train collision in Odisha, even as a high level probe is on to ascertain the root cause, it is still unclear if deployment of Kavach would have helped averting a mishap of this kind.
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