Fog safety devices installed on trains on trial basis

Even as rail traffic continues to be thrown out of gear due to fog every year, the Indian Railways have failed to come up with a fool-proof technology to mitigate the problem. While the Railways have introduced technological innovation by installing fog safety devices on locomotives on a trial basis, the device has a limited purpose -- to ensure that the locomotive pilots are reminded well within time about the next approaching signal and station.

Northern Railway introduced the device on a trial basis in the winter of 2011 and currently a total of 1,018 fog safety devices designed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation are installed on different express and mail trains across the zone.

“The device is on a trial run. It is installed in the locomotive. It contains data of all the stations and the rail traffic signals on a particular route. It gives a buzz whenever a train is approaching a signal. It mainly alerts the loco pilot that the train is approaching a signal, which otherwise remains invisible with naked eye in foggy condition. It is to ensure that the safety of passengers, which is paramount, is not compromised,” said Northern Railway spokesperson Neeraj Sharma.

The device supplements the traditional way of informing the loco pilot about an approaching signal by bursting crackers on the railway tracks, Mr. Sharma added.

The device has also been introduced by other fog-prone railway zones like North Western and East Central Railway. Officials said outcome of the device, which at best can replace the traditional system of bursting crackers, is being followed at the level of Railway Board and the RDSO.

Railway officials speaking privately, however, said that technological intervention to cut through fog and ensure normal operation of trains in foggy weather over a railway network spread across thousands of kilometres is a difficult task.

“To expect such a situation is like putting the entire network on an automated mode. For that, track circuiting would have to be done on the entire network. Even technological intervention has a limit. Despite spending crores in installing CAT III technology at the airports, operation comes to standstill if the visibility level recedes beyond the prescribed limits. Moreover, the Railways is an open network where the right of way of the train is violated at will,” said a senior Northern Railway official.

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