A satellite-based system will now alert road users at unmanned level crossings about approaching trains and also help in tracking train movement on a real-time basis.
The space technology, adopted with the help of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will warn road users through hooters once a train approaches an unmanned level crossing. The railways is installing ISRO-developed integrated circuit (IC) chips on 10,000 locomotives of trains.
About 500 metres before the level crossings, the hooter will be activated through a signal from the IC chip, warning road users as well as the train drivers near the crossing.
The hooter will become louder as the level crossing nears, and will fall silent after the train has passed.
On a pilot basis, two level crossing gates in Sonepur division on the Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani route are to be equipped with the ISRO system, to be followed by a few gates on the Delhi-Mumbai route shortly.
Trials would be conducted on these two busy rail corridors and, according to the plan, all level crossings will be equipped with the ISRO system in phases, said a senior Railway Ministry official who did not want to be named.
Besides alerting road users, the satellite-based system will also be used for tracking trains for disseminating information about their movement on a real-time basis. At present, train movement related information is maintained manually, leaving scope for inaccuracies.
The trial for real-time train information system is already being carried out on Mumbai Rajdhani and Guwahati Rajdhani services, said the official.
Safety at unmanned level crossings is a cause of serious concern for railways as these crossings witness maximum mishaps. The public transporter had explored various ways to address the issue before settling for the ISRO system.
A few locos are being equipped with the device and installation of hooters at unmanned level crossings gates on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Guwahati routes is being carried out gradually.
There are about 7,254 unmanned railway crossings in the country which account for around 40 per cent of accidents involving the railways. There are about 18,000 manned level crossings.
While the Railways had eliminated 1,148 unmanned crossings in 2014-15 and 1,253 in 2015-16, it has scaled up its target and now plans to eliminate all such crossings in the next two to three years.
Once all unmanned level crossings are eliminated, the hooter system would be shifted to manned level crossings as per the plan.
The satellite-based system will also help railways in mapping the area and the technology will come in handy at the time of accidents when it can be used to ascertain the exact location of trains and topography.
(Arun Kumar Das is a Delhi-based senior freelance journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)