Information Technology based ideas to reduce Train accidents.
Author: P. Abraham Paul. Short link: http://wp.me/s1ZsI2-39
With such enormity of the Rail network and its heavy usage across the country, it is almost impossible to fully prevent accidents in Railways that are willfully caused by miscreants. Implementation of fail proof and tamper proof technology also will be an extremely difficult task due to its openness in isolated areas. Damaging of rail tracks or trains with mines or bombs with remote control devices are difficult to prevent. For any anti social element or group it is too easy to cause a major accident. For example, any goon can cover the railway signal lamps with a gunny bag in the night to easily misguide the drivers, and cause accidents of the like we saw time and again. A miscreant in the garb of benevolent ‘Chaivala’ can feed doped ‘Muffat’ drinks to the train Drivers / Guards at a station to make them inactive in few minutes. A turnaround can happen only with major social change that is not going to happen soon the way the political situation in the country is what it is now.
It is the experience that most accidents happen due to leaving the safety aspect fully to humans. It is therefore, necessary to find ways and means to do something quickly to prevent accidents due to human error or signaling failure and also to some extent tampering of the system by miscreants, even if the chances of such is only one in thousand, by introducing some fail proof & tamper proof technology solutions.
Technology based solutions: Fully GPS based technology as being talked about may not serve the purpose fully but can supplement other methods. It is in this regards, I suggest the following solution which is feasible with available technology to start with.
1. At every signaling point and at close intervals of the entire Rail route, there shall be wireless controlled autonomous ‘Toll Gate’ like mechanism in replacement or in addition to the current flag / light, manual and automatic signaling methods. These ‘Toll Gate’ like systems are to be networked with wireless connectivity at short haul linked by Optical Fibre all along the route and autonomously controlled by IT enabled systems and network.
2. There shall be fail proof ‘Central Control Systems’ and ‘Stationery Units’ and “Local Units” in every locomotive all suitably networked for monitoring the movements of the trains and rolling stocks, check continuity and condition of the tracks and detect flaws, and to communicate and control those between the central control rooms and units at stations.
2.1. ‘Central Control Systems’ These are central control rooms in every railway division / subdivision that is equipped with facilities for monitoring of all rolling stock movements across the rail network, trains, supervision and pilot trolleys, track monitoring systems, under its jurisdiction and also will have fail proof communication facility with all railways station control rooms, the other Stationary units and Drivers and Guards cabin of all Locomotives.
2.2. ‘Stationery Units’. The ‘Stationery Units’ are tamper proof units located at every Railway station and at every Signal points and also at required intervals along the railway track and shall be networked with redundant and fail-proof back bone optical fiber cable network and wireless communication facility and features to monitor the condition and continuity of rail tracks and information of the movements of all trains on the tracks in the vicinity and report to Central Units and to the nearby stations.
These ‘Stationery Units’ shall have wireless networking and serve as “autonomous toll points to interact with the ‘Local Units’ in the locomotives over local wireless network and enable permission on request to pass and to warn or stop the engine remotely if any locomotive approaches or trespasses without access permit.
Tamper proof CCTV cameras placed at vantage points along the rail routes especially in trouble prone sensitive areas and networked with Stationary units and Central unit will be of help to war and eliminate tampering tracks or to detect unusual activity.
In case of any discontinuity or tampering of tracks at any point or any system failure, or no response from the “Local units’ there shall be facility to autonomously generate alarm across the network and the Local units and inform the Central Unit to control or stop the trains.
2.3. ‘Local Unit’. Every locomotive shall have a wireless enabled special purpose computerized ‘Local Unit’ that remains always online with the railway wireless network. At every rail toll gate, the ‘Local unit’ in the locomotive interacts with the ‘Stationery unit’ to gain permission to passage. if there is a failure to communicate or to avail permission at toll signal points, the “Central unit can access the Local unit to stop the train.
The idea is as train approach each signal point, the local unit in the train will generate beeps to call attention of the driver for feeding in the explicit passwords which then is analysed by the control ssytem and permission granted to proceed and cross the signal point and displays instructions in the local unit. In case of no response or failure of communication, train will be stopped autonomously by remote control from Control unit.
3. In addition to Railway GSM network, every loco engine and guard’s cabin shall be provided with GPS enabled, fail proof communication facility to interact with Station masters, Control rooms and Central Units and with guards and drivers of other trains in the vicinity.
In addition there shall be a live LCD display unit prompted by the Stationery units’ / Control room, in the driver’s cabin showing the tracks in the vicinity, its own position and movement and the location of other trains over the tracks in the vicinity and at the stations.
4. To avoid tampering by miscreants, these stationery units shall be made as tamper proof encasement and located hidden underground. Signaling between the stationery units and ‘Toll Gate’ units could be both in wired and wireless modes.. Signaling between the ‘Stationery units’ / ‘Toll Gate’ / ‘Local units in the locomotives; shall be with fail proof wireless technology, in tamper proof environment and data transacted are encrypted to prevent hacking.
In case of failure of the system or network or detection of any tampering of rail or toll systems; there shall be facility to warn and if necessary to stop movements of all trains and rolling stocks in the vicinity.
It is possible to get these done in time bound manner if dedicated and focused attention is given by the Railway Ministry.