Railways to provide GPS-enabled clocks to ensure safety

The Global Postioning system (GPS) clock installed by the Indian Railways at the Kozhikode railway station. File   | Photo Credit: RAMESH KURUP S

In a significant shift in policy, the Indian Railways will provide Global Positioning System (GPS) clocks for control offices to enable section controllers coordinate with station masters, loco pilots and other staff directly involved in train operations to ensure uniformity in time.

The enhanced safety measure will replace analog clocks and train operations will soon be guided by satellite supported timers known for precision and reliability. Section controllers will set the time for station masters, loco pilots and others to correct their clocks/ watches to uniformity. The Ministry of Railways amended relevant provisions in the rule book to make way for the technology upgrade.

Cause of accident

The move follows an investigation into the head-on collision of Train No. 18005 Howrah-Jagdalpur Salmeswari Express in East Coast Railway on June 25, 2019, which left three railway employees dead and several passengers injured. The Commissioner of Railway Safety who probed the circumstances that led to the accident concluded that there was a “mismatch in timings maintained in control office, at railway stations, loco pilot, signal power monitoring, data logger etc.”

It was found that the instructions prescribed under Rule 4.01 of General Rules on “Timing and Running of Trains” were not followed in many divisions. The rule states that “the section controller shall transmit the correct time at 16.00 hrs daily to all the stations under his control by using a common ring. The station master on duty will adjust the station clock and record any variation in the time variation register…”

Rule amended

Accepting the recommendations of the Commissioner of Railway Safety that the rule be suitably amended to adopt GPS timings to ensure uniformity of timings maintained at different places and by different set of staff, the Railway Board has directed General Managers of all Zonal Railways to provide GPS clocks in control offices across Indian Railways.

“The accuracy in the synchronisation of time in the clocks maintained by the control office, station masters, loco pilots, guards and others is crucial in ensuring safety of train operations. In the accident involving Samleswari Express, there was a block in the section for maintenance work that was lifted without actually ascertaining the clearance of the line for passing the train. Besides other lapses, the enquiry has found mismatch in time maintained by the staff concerned caused the collision,” a senior railway official heading a Signal & Telecommunication Wing of railways told The Hindu.

Heritage with modernity

The huge clocks at major railway stations would also be modified to GPS technology by replacing the analog mechanism. However, the outer box clock design would be retained to keep the heritage look. Different departments having their own individual clock arrangements should be dispensed with as it involves safety.

“The GPS enabled clocks are accurate and reliable. They should be made available to section controllers (who coordinate and control the movement of trains in a section), station masters, loco pilots, gatekeepers and all others managing the other sub-systems in train operations. This significant shift in policy on the safety front ought to have been thought of by the railways long ago…,” the official said.

In Southern Railway, the process of providing GPS clocks at control offices would be completed in a month’s time, Chief Public Relations Officer B. Guganesan said.

The Commissioner of Railway Safety, who comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, deals with matters pertaining to safety of rail travel and train operation and is charged with certain statutory functions as laid down in the Railway Act, 1989, which are of an inspectorial, investigatory and advisory in nature.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 9:51:15 AM |

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