Despite repeated fire incidents in trains, railways is yet to install automatic fire alarm system in a majority of long-distance services.
26 passengers were charred to death in an AC coach in the Bangalore-Nanded Express. Earlier, a fire in the Tamil Nadu Express had claimed 32 lives.
Seven persons were burnt to death in November, 2011 when a coach of Howrah-Dehradun Express train caught fire.
Later, the fire spread to another coach and both the coaches were badly burnt.
Three coaches of Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express had caught fire near Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh on April 18, 2011.
New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani Express’ generator coach caught fire on the outskirts in New Delhi Railway Station in July, 2011.
The automatic smoke/fire detection alarm system is being planned for air-conditioned coaches of all Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Garib Rath and Duranto trains but so far it has been installed in two Rajdhani trains.
Currently, Secunderabad Rajdhani and Bhubaneswar Rajdhani have the system which is equipped to detect smoke and fire at the earliest and ring the alarm.
It costs about Rs. 35 lakh to install a fire alarm system in a train.
The specifications of the system, which include design, supply, installation, commissioning and maintenance of aspiration type automatic smoke/fire detection with alarm system for AC coaches were being finalised by the Research Designs and Standard Organisation in 2008.
The system was redesigned in November 2010, incorporating experiences gained from the trial run and suggestions from experts.
It had undergone another revision in October 2011 wherein certain modifications were made.
However, the fire safety proposal is only for air-conditioned coaches — AC First, AC Second, AC Three Tier, AC Chaircar and AC pantry car. The general compartments and sleeper coaches have been left out.
“We are in the process of installing the system in more trains”, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
On steps taken by railways to check recurrence of fire mishaps, officials said several measures were being adopted including fire retardant furnishing materials in coaches.
He said there are also provisions for installing fire barrier and thermic-lock in vestibule doors to slow the spread of fire.
“Fire retardant cables and multi-tier electrical protection systems are also being provided to prevent incidents of fire due to electrical defects,” he added.