Monday, November 12, 2012

Train safety device under a cloud, tests show snags

The Railways’ winter preparation to run trains safely in foggy conditions, especially at night, suffered a setback as the global positioning system-based (GPS) fog safe device has failed to produce the desired result during trials.

The trials were carried out in trains in the Delhi-Ambala section last winter, which is known for its dense fog cover.
The device, which calculates the distance between trains and approaching signals through receptors and helps drivers spot the signal beforehand, was tested in over 400 trains.
“The trials for the fog safe device were successfully carried out last winter. The response from loco pilots was encouraging. But certain grey areas were noticed in the device because of which, at present, it will not be installed in trains,” A K Sachan, Divisional Manager of Northern Railway’s Delhi Division, said.
Officials said the device wouldn’t be installed in any of the Northern Railway trains — express, mail or freight — this season.
Sources said the device was unable to read the accurate distance of approaching signals. “The device warned the driver about the presence of a signal, but failed to accurately read the distance between the train and the signal. This discrepancy was detected,” an official said.
Snags in the signaling system of the device were also noticed, the sources said.
“Certain modifications have been carried out in the device by the technical experts. The fog safe device will be tested again on the Delhi-Ambala stretch,” a senior official said.
The Railways face a huge challenge in operating trains in Delhi, Ambala, Agra, Allahabad and Bihar sections, where dense fog during winter reduces visibility to a few metres. Many trains get delayed and cancelled because of this.
The Delhi Division has begun precautionary measures for the winter. “We have started the visual test object to ascertain fog intensity. Based on the findings, detonators are installed on the tracks to alert drivers about the presence of signals. The signaling system will be changed from automatic to semi-automatic to ensure safety,” spokesperson Neeraj Sharma said.
The general practice is to place detonators 270 metres before a signal. They burst when trains pass over them and the blast alerts the driver about an approaching signal to slow the train and see the light. “The detonator method will be used this time, too. We keep safety above punctuality,” Sharma said.
Fog safe device
A portable instrument that uses GPS technology or satellite-based navigation
It tracks the train route in real time
Alerts the driver about approaching signals when visibility is poor
It also displays the distance of upcoming signals in a sequential order
Also alerts drivers about railway crossings and if someone is crossing the tracks
Has a range of 4 km
Costs around Rs 40,000


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