To optimise use of track for proposed suburban service

Railways will need to install automatic signalling system on all the double line and single line sections of its network to optimise the use of track for the proposed suburban service and run more mail and express trains in the State.

The new system would reduce the operational time of signalling systems at railway stations by eliminating manual operation, a top railway official said. This in turn would reduce the running time of trains.

Cost Rs.60 lakh a km

The signalling systems of all stations would work by remote control. The cost of installing this technology was estimated at Rs.60 lakh for a kilometre of double line section.

To lay a kilometre of track, the investment was estimated at Rs.5-6 crore as per current estimates.

The works on automatic signalling could be executed in two to three years or earlier depending on local conditions, the official said.

On implementation, line capacity would get enhanced to over five trains an hour each way. In the railway network, a line is divided into block sections between railway stations situated 15 to 20 km apart. Instead of conventional absolute block system, which permits only one train at a time in the block section of 15-20 km, the automatic signalling splits the block section into sub-sections of 1 to 2 km.

Signals are automatically operated once the train occupies the track.

Once that block sub-section is clear, the next train is automatically given the signal to enter the sub-section.

Cheaper

Railway officials in the operations and traffic wing said line capacity would be optimally used and a safe distance between trains would be maintained.

Compared to the cost for creating a third dedicated corridor for operating Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) or suburban trains in the State where land cost is higher and acquisition difficult, the official said automatic signalling was cheaper though the capital cost was on the higher side.

“Automatic signalling will become inevitable in future if new trains are to be introduced,” Assistant Divisional Secretary, Southern Railway Employees Sangh, Thomas Moraes said.

In metro cities

The system had been in vogue in the metropolitan cities for the past few decades. It would have multiple benefits for a State like Kerala where a large section of people, especially office-goers, depend on trains for commuting — more long-distance trains, reduction in travel time, operating suburban and MEMU trains at three-minute intervals, fuel conservation as more vehicles can be taken off the roads, and cheap and hassle-free travel, he said.

Mr. Moraes said the icing on the cake was that automatic signalling could be achieved without fresh land acquisition and implemented within two to three years.