India has witnessed an improvement in the safety performance of passenger trains over the last 10 years. The total number of accidents decreased from 195 in 2006-07 to 135 in 2014-15. Derailment and unmanned level crossings (UMLCs), the two main reasons for accidents, witnessed a steep fall during this period. Accidents due to derailment fell from 96 in 2006-07 to 63 in 2014-15, while those due to UMLCs fell from 72 to 50 in the same period. In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of freight train accidents as well.
- Elimination of UMLCs: Indian Railways (IR) eliminated 4,454 UMLCs between March 2011 and January 2015. In 2015-16, IR closed 350 manned level crossings (MLCs) and eliminated 1,000 UMLCs. Around 820 road overbridges (RoBs)/road underbridges (RuBs) were completed in 2015-16 and work is going on in another 1,350. The Ministry of Railways (MoR) is in talks with IIT, Kanpur and the Indian Space Research Organisation to develop solutions to alert people to approaching trains at unmanned crossings.
- Anti-collision devices (ACDs): IR deployed ACDs developed by the Konkan Railway Corporation in a pilot project on 1,736 route km on the Katihar-New Jalpaiguri-Guwahati-Lumding-Tinsukia-Dibrugarh-Ledo and Kumedpur-Malda sections of the Northeast Frontier Railway.
- Train collision avoidance system (TCAS): A pilot project for the indigenous development of TCAS has been taken up by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO). Field trials of TCAS have been conducted on a 32 route km section (4 stations) with five locomotives during 2014-15. IR is expected to introduce the system on the New Delhi-Mughalsarai and New Delhi-Jhansi sections during 2016.
- Train protection and warning system (TPWS): Under a pilot project, TPWS has been installed on an over 50 route km suburban section of the Chennai-Gummidipundi stretch on all electric multiple unit (EMU) rakes under Southern Railway, on a 25 route km from Dum Dum-Kavi Subhash Nagar on all EMU rakes under the Kolkata Metro Rail, and on an over 200 route km Hazrat Nizamuddin-Agra Cantt section.
- Fog safety device: The Delhi division of Northern Railway has deployed 250 fog safety devices for safe movement and the software for these devices was upgraded in 2015. Further, detonators are used by the railways to alert maintenance crews of approaching trains during thick fog and the division used over 50,000 detonators in the winter of 2015-16.
- Initiatives specific to RoBs/RuBs: An MoU has been signed with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to eliminate all level crossings on national highway corridors. A web-based application has been commissioned for online submission and approval of various plans and drawings related to RoBs/RuBs of the National Highways Authority of India, state governments and other agencies within 60 days.
- Initiatives to make MLC gates and stations safe: In November 2015, IR launched the automatic operation of banner flags at level crossing gates on the Kanpur-Jhansi section. Complete track circuiting and multiple-aspect colour-light signalling were installed at 245 stations during 2014-15. Further, panel/electronic interlocking systems have been provided at 5,336 stations (85 per cent of total interlocked stations).
- Fire protection and suppression: An automatic fire and smoke detection system has recently been deployed in three rakes. Provision of this system has been sanctioned for another 1,750 coaches, including 500 non-air-conditioned coaches.
- Integrated security system (ISS): This system has been provided at five stations – Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore, Ernakulum, Tirupati and Thane.
- Prevention of train derailments: To reduce the incidence of derailment, track structures with 60 kg rails and pre-stressed concrete (PSC) sleepers on all the broad gauge routes have been standardised. There has also been increased use of modern track maintenance machines such as self-propelled ultrasonic rail testing cars for rail flaw detection, ballast cleaning machines, and track recording cars; as well as the introduction of wheel impact load detectors for the early detection of faulty wheels.
- Budget proposals: The Railway Budget 2016-17 has allocated Rs 126.85 billion for safety works, an increase of almost 68 per cent over the revised budget allocation for 2015-16. Of the budgetary allocation for 2016-17, Rs 86.85 billion has been earmarked for level crossings, while the remaining Rs 40 billion is for RoBs/RuBs.
During 2014-15, Rs 14.99 billion was allocated to the Railway Safety Fund. In September 2015, IR sought Rs 1,000 billion from the Ministry of Finance to renew and maintain rail tracks, upgrade bridges, and remove UMLCs.
Going forward, IR needs to implement the lessons learnt from proven technological solutions in international railway systems in its own rail systems. It needs to focus on the upgradation of mainline coaches with smoke and fire detection systems. IR’s recent collaboration with Japan and Korea for improving operations on the existing network also augurs well for the sector.