Wednesday , 19 February 2020

Safety in trains Playing with Fire

Nitin Kumar David, Public Relations Officer, Western Railway, Mumbai speaks on the same lines. ?As such, there has been no incident of fire on Western Railway. As a precautionary measure, we have established a security helpline number, 9004441888, which has been earmarked for receiving information about anyone carrying any inflammable article in the trains illegally. If a passenger notices his co-passenger carrying any inflammable material including spirit, crackers, kerosene, paint, welding cylinder, etc., he can inform the Railways on this number. We will immediately, or at the next station, send our staff to check, remove the material and take corrective action.? He also informs that random checking is done to see ?if any passenger is carrying any inflammable material in his baggage.?

?All the locomotives of long distance trains of Western Railway are fitted with VCD (Vigilance Control Device) while all the suburban trains of Western Railway are equipped with Auxillary Warning System (AWS). We have also developed communication system among loco pilot, guard and the nearest station master / control room since a long time?. ? Nitin Kumar David

The recent fire mishaps in trains prove that these efforts are not helpful enough. When luggage is screened at the airports before a passenger boards the plane, some measure on these lines need to be introduced and strictly enforced for the train journeys too.

Intelligent Transportation Systems too can be put to good use for safety in our trains. Train Control and Supervision Systems, Variable Monitoring Systems, Train-parameter Recording Systems, Passenger Information and Video Systems, Train Telecommunication Systems and New Signaling Systems are only some of the state-of-the-art systems that can be put to very good use in the trains. Goel feels that the ?deployment of such systems would lead to monitoring and control of the movement of rolling stocks.? They would also be able to give more definite direction and approach to optimise the time, cost and safety measures, he opines adding that ?such systems would not aid in fire safety systems in direct means but would lead to safety from accidents and other aspects of traffic congestion and real-time optimisation.?

Goel adds, ?Many unique solutions are available today such as spray mist systems, advanced fire detection systems, thermal image cameras, etc., beyond the general fire protection system such as Passive Fire Material. There are other safety devices on trains including ventilation windows, audio communication system with train drivers, public announcement system within stations and trains, emergency doors, and fire alarm and firefighting systems on platforms. It will be important for the authorities of local train vehicles to ensure that the walls are ?non-combustible?, thus giving a very low ?fixed? fire load density.?

David claims that Western Railway is a pioneer in using the latest technologies on its trains. ?We have been using the latest state-of-the-art route relay interlocking and panel interlocking signaling systems since over a decade. These have replaced the 70- year-old signal systems. Also, guards on our trains have fire extinguishers with them to be used in case of fire. Fire extinguishers are also placed inside the AC coaches and our staff knows to operate them.?

Central Railways, on the other hand, is taking steps to make changes in the light fixtures, informs Malegaonkar. ?We are changing light fixtures in the trains. Instead of the present protruding curve, we are making a flash fixture curve in the roof so that even if the luggage touches the roof, it cannot come in contact with the hot curve. That does away with the chances of fire.? Steps are also being taken on Master Control Switch. Normally, when even one bulb remains on when other lights are switched off, its heat can lead to a hazard if any luggage or material comes in contact with it. But with a Master Control Switch, all the lights of the entire coach will be switched off once the main switch is flicked to off position.

While Central Railway uses media campaigns like advertisements in national publications to request people to refrain from carrying inflammable material on the trains, Western Railway uses the mode of posters in railway premises, attractive stickers inside the trains, announcements on stations and jingles on FM radio channels to tell them about the hazards of carrying inflammable materials to do so. The latter also publicises the security helpline number and encourages people to use it should the need arise. ?Over a period of time, fire retarding material too will be used in coaches like seat covers, cushions, etc., so that they do not catch fire,? says Malegaonkar.

Gabhane suggests a three-pronged approach to be adopted by railway authorities: ?Complete fire analysis and fire modeling of rail cars with the help of qualified fire engineers and fire test laboratories; Regular updation of train safety standards, and fire safety audits of trains and stations; and National Building code of India to address the fire safety of railway stations in addition to metro stations.?

Goel too recommends a few measures: ?Improving the procedures for handling incidents and dissemination of information to passengers; Organizing joint training programmes on railway accident investigation with the associated government departments; and Stepping up public education programme to enhance public awareness of the regulations under the by-laws and emergency procedures for railway incidents are important.? Under the Corporate Safety Plan, the Parliament had allocated a grant of ?17000 crore for bringing about improvement in communication, rolling stock, bridges, track maintenance, etc. Though a lot of input has gone into signaling, mechanised maintenance of tracks and coordination with related agencies, the safety measures do not seem adequate enough.

The need of the hour is: Formulating a fool-proof safety plan, adopting the latest safety enhancing technologies and enforcing the rules strictly. Of course, public awareness and discipline too will go a long way in ensuring safety on the trains. Indian Railways, as a single unit, needs to take up the safety aspect on an emergency basis. The rest will follow.

Other reasons and solutions for mishaps in the trains

It isn?t that there aren?t systems available to mitigate other train mishaps. There are. An Anti-Collision Device (ACD) was developed by Konkan Railway Corporation in 1999 which works on GPS technology (intelligent microprocessor based system) and helps in avoiding collisions. But our Railways rarely uses it. Says Goel, ?Such systems require to be operated in a cohesive manner with all other systems for the successful working and functioning of the system. One ineffective system can adversely affect the operation of the other systems that are deployed. Hence, upkeep and upkeep and regular maintenance of the system is very important. The Railways not using the system could be an oversight and could be put to functioning with minor system check and re-commissioning.?

The Auxiliary Warning System (AWS), Train Protection & Warning System; Mobile Train Radio Communication; Centralised Traffic Control; Extended Track Circuiting too can be helpful but these are all applied only on a few routes. ?The authorities would have evaluated the risk aspect and the critical aspect of operations of specific routes and planned such systems. The budgetary constrains would have lead to select such routes. However, the long term goal should encompass eventual provisions of such system all across operations and simultaneous upkeep and up-gradation of the existing system,? says Goel.


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