Sucheta Dalal :Rail collisions continue as ministry mulls over ‘desi’ anti-collision device
Sucheta Dalal

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Rail collisions continue as ministry mulls over ‘desi’ anti-collision device  

October 26, 2009


With the recent rail accident at Mathura involving two trains colliding and killing 22 persons, many rail experts are asking questions for not installing the much discussed, anti-collision device network or Raksha Kavach (ACD) on railway locomotives.
Bojji Rajaram or B Rajaram, the inventor of indigenous ACD that is patented by the Konkan Railway, has written to railway minister Mamata Banerjee, asking about the pending implementation and various hurdles created by some dubious elements.
In his letter, Mr Rajaram had questioned the railway ministry's intentions behind making a multi-vendor quote compulsory for the implementation of the indigenous ACD, while the same norms are not applicable for any device based on foreign technology.
ACD helps protect two trains from colliding with each other, automatically, thus avoiding the human error. ACD is connected with a global positioning system (GPS). In case it finds two trains on the same track or coming closer to each other, it automatically stops the trains.
Mr Rajaram developed ACD while working as managing director of Konkan Railway in 1999. He tested the system on the Jalandhar-Amritsar route which is one of the toughest territories for trains across India. The event was recorded by National Geographic in the presence of Ms Banerjee, who incidentally holds the same ministry now.
In addition, the assurance committee of the Indian Railway board had also promised that the system was efficient and briefed Parliament about the same in 2004. Three additional zonal railways, namely Central Railway, Southern Railway and South Eastern Railway were given the go-ahead to install ACD systems.
However, the implementation of ACD has been held back since then for various reasons, mainly for requirement of further development. "Every time the technology was (put) through the tests, they (the rail ministry officials) told us they want further developments. We made the required developments and submitted the ACD in 2005, but have not heard a single word from them since," added Mr Rajaram.
The indigenous ACD systems are also cost-effective. 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 as against the Rs5 million to Rs10 million, the Indian government is willing to spend, feels Mr Rajaram.

Ironically, when the ACD technology was first put through the North Frontier trial run, the railway ministry was headed by the same Ms Banerjee. A decade later, with Ms Banerjee back at the railway minister's post, it remains to be seen if the implementation gathers momentum.

However, Mr Rajaram isn't quite positive about the possible adoption. "I have full faith in the Indian bureaucracy, if they don't want something to happen, they will not let it happen," he said. Mr Rajaram is still waiting for a response to his letter dated 21st October.
- Amritha Pillay [email protected]

-- Sucheta Dalal