Over the past few years, the increase in urbanisation and congestion on roads has led to increased public transport ridership. In metropolitan cities such as Delhi, the dependence on the metro as a reliable and efficient means of transportation is very high. As a result, it has become imperative for metro developers and other stakeholders to come up with sophisticated solutions to serve its ever-increasing customer base. In this regard, the use of smart technologies such as intelligent transportation systems (ITSs) is a promising solution. ITS is an integration of communication systems and information technologies primarily designed to improve the safety, security and efficiency of the transit system. Over the years, metro systems have been deploying advanced ITS solutions to offer passenger convenience and streamline train operations. It has been deployed in various segments such as signalling, train control and telecommunications, fare collection and ticketing solutions, centralised monitoring and safety.
Signalling and telecommunications
The nature of signalling, train control and telecommunication systems has evolved over time. With the objective of enhancing reliability across various metro rail projects, a number of measures are being taken by developers such as progressive upgradation of signalling systems by deploying electronic interlocking with centralised operation of points and signals, multicoloured LED signals, complete track-circuiting of stations, digital-axle counters and automatic signalling. The highest grade of automation – GOA4, which includes communication-based train control (CBTC) is being deployed to provide immediate status updates and control to avoid accidents in special circumstances like sudden breakdowns or power loss. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has been planning to switch to the CBTC system for Line 7 and Line 8. To this end, in March 2020, the corporation appointed Systra MVA to provide consultancy services. Once the switch to CBTC is implemented, the DMRC will become the first metro rail operator in the country to introduce an automatic train operation system.
Fare collection and ticketing solutions
The market for automated fare collection (AFC) systems has grown in recent years as more projects have become operational. This has led to the introduction of innovative solutions for fare collection, further supported by cashless transactions through mobile wallets and QR codes. The account-based ticketing (ABT) system has emerged as a popular payment system. Recently, metro corporations have turned to ABT systems to improve the efficiency of metro ticketing. For instance, the Kochi Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) has partnered with Axis Bank to develop a smart card that will automatically deduct money from the user’s bank account. The replacement of single-journey smart tokens by QR codes has also gained popularity in the mobile ticketing segment, thus reducing huge operational costs for transport operators. The KMRC launched the Kochi1 app to generate QR codes apart from offering other functionalities like managing card balances. Similarly, the DMRC has launched QR code-based tickets on its Airport Express Line whereby commuters can book tickets using Ridlr and Paytm mobile applications.
Passenger information system
Passenger information display systems (PIDS) provide train service information, general station information and commercial information in metro stations. The deployment of LEDs and LCDs to disseminate information is an essential part of the telecommunication system package. These are installed in the station area and sometimes in coaches as well. The Lucknow metro has a state-of-the-art telecommunication system that uses Gigabit Ethernet as the backbone for transmission. The information display screens with a double-sided display board provide information on train arrivals and departures on a real-time basis. Moreover, the public address system and PIDS have been integrated with each other to display the same information.
Safety being of utmost importance, metro systems and station premises are now equipped with components such as CCTV surveillance cameras, fire retardants, and tunnel ventilation systems. Tunnel ventilation systems protect passengers during fire and smoke emergencies in stations/tunnels. They lower the tunnel air temperature during normal and congested conditions and provide smoke management in tunnels during a fire emergency.
In the Lucknow metro, X-ray baggage scanners, door frame metal detectors and handheld explosive detectors are positioned at the AFC and ticket gates within each station building to achieve the highest level of security. The network has been designed to be well lit with minimal blind spots for optimum CCTV/camera coverage and the key structural elements are adequately protected from vandalism.
Innovations and developments in various segments have been successful in improving customer experience and optimising operations. Revamped fare collection and ticketing solutions, coupled with enhanced safety and telecommunication systems will go a long way in ensuring world-class transport services.