Sucheta Dalal :Rail anti-collision tech: Does the foreign TPWS trump the home-grown ACD?
Sucheta Dalal

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Rail anti-collision tech: Does the foreign TPWS trump the home-grown ACD?  

April 26, 2010

The Indian Railways recently decided to adopt the European technology Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) on busy rail routes to avoid collisions. However, the government has once again ignored the indigenous & cost-effective anti-collision device (ACD) system developed by the Konkan Railway and has instead opted for an expensive foreign technology.


According to industry experts, TPWS is not only expensive, but also less efficient compared to the ACD system. Rajaram Bojji, inventor of the ACD technology and former managing director, Konkan Railway, has also written to the railway minister on this issue.


In his letter addressed to the minister, he has stated, “You have chosen to approve more expensive systems which do not provide the protection against collisions as widely as ACD can provide. You are ill-advised.”


What is the point of using a so-called certified system, costing 10 times more, but not meeting our requirements? He said that European systems were being promoted, while condemning the successfully proven ACD. The home-grown system is certified by all tests of the Research Design and Standard Organisation (RDSO) and through field implementation—as being able to prevent all dangerous collisions in mid-section, at the station and near the stations.


Commenting on the features of the TPWS, a senior railway ministry official was quoted in a news report as stating, “If the train jumps the red signal, then brakes will be applied automatically under the TPWS system. A majority of the recent accidents took place due to trains jumping red signals in foggy conditions.”


However, Mr Bojji points out the flaws in this expensive imported system. “The entire expenditure on TPWS is to protect the red signal at the stations. But unless the driver observes a lot of discipline, the system fails in protection.” He said the ten times (more) expensive system is being provided only to cover a rail line of one kilometre before a red signal. During the first trials, where ACD was installed on some 15 trains, the cost came to about Rs1,50,000 to Rs2,00,000 per locomotive. The cost went up to Rs5,50,000 during the trial run. At present, the cost would not be more than Rs7,00,000 per locomotive .


The TPWS is estimated to cost Rs70 lakh per km, and will be implemented over an 828-km rail stretch. The total cost for installing the TPWS would be about Rs579.60 crore. On the other hand, the ACD will provide a more efficient and cheaper overall protection against collisions.


ACD, which is a no-signal equipment, has superior wide-area safety-enhancing capability, while costing much less individually. As a network, it delivers extremely superior performance as compared to signal systems. It also has an upgradation cycle in technology terms through progressive software and hardware additions, to eliminate the current old-fashioned Western technology-based signal systems. “This is what the signal department of the Indian Railways fears and thus is trying to fight tooth-and-nail against the introduction of the ACD,” Mr Bojji further stated.


The signal department of the Indian Railways demands a Safety Integrity Level (SIL) certification for ACDs. However, Mr Bojji stated, “ACD, actually not being signal equipment, but only an additional layer, does not need SIL certification, this was confirmed by TUV Germany too in their report for assessing the ACD.” — Moneylife Digital Team

-- Sucheta Dalal