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Train Derailments: KAVACH is the solution?

KAVACH aims to enhance railway safety and prevent accidents through the use of advanced technology and real-time monitoring.

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Discover the reasons behind the frequent train derailments in India and shed light on a potential solution called KAVACH, which holds promise in avoiding such accidents.

India’s railway network is one of the largest in the world, carrying millions of passengers and tons of freight every day. However, train derailments have been a persistent issue in the country, causing loss of life, injuries, and significant damage to infrastructure.

The most recent and tragic example of a derailment caused by signaling failure is the Odisha train accident that took place on 2 June 2023. In this accident, two passenger trains collided near Balasore in Odisha after 10-12 coaches of Coromandel Express derailed and fell on the adjacent track. These derailed cars dashed into Howrah Superfast Express, which was coming from the opposite direction. A third freight train was also involved in the accident. The collision resulted in at least 233 deaths and more than 900 injuries.

This accident is one of the worst rail mishaps in India in decades and has raised serious questions about the safety and efficiency of the Indian railways. The Indian railways is one of the largest train networks under one management in the world, carrying more than 12 million passengers every day on 14,000 trains across 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track. However, despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents occur every year on Indian railways.

According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 70 percent of the railway accidents that occurred between 2018 and 2021 were due to derailments. The report cited various reasons for these derailments, such as faults in tracks, maintenance issues, operating errors, and sabotage.

One of the major causes of derailments is the failure of the railway crew to follow safety rules and procedures. According to experts most incidents involved negligence, shortcuts, and a disregard for safety laws. For example, in January 2023, nine people died and 36 others were injured after 12 coaches of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express derailed in West Bengal’s Alipurduar due to over-speeding.

Another cause of derailments is the presence of unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) on railway tracks. These are crossings where there are no gates or signals to regulate the traffic on roads and railways. UMLCs continue to be one of the leading causes of rail accident fatalities. In many cases, vehicles or pedestrians cross the tracks without checking for approaching trains, leading to collisions and derailments.

A third cause of derailments is signaling failure, which is the fault of loco-pilots (train operators) or signalmen. Accidents can also occur due to signal failures, which are the fault of loco-pilots (train operators) or signalmen. These failures can happen due to human errors, such as misreading or ignoring signals, or technical glitches, such as faulty equipment or power cuts.

Challenges and Factors Contributing to Train Derailments in India:

Aging Infrastructure: A significant factor contributing to train derailments in India is the aging railway infrastructure. Many tracks, bridges, and signaling systems are old and require urgent modernization and maintenance.

Overburdened Network: India’s railway network is overcrowded, leading to increased stress on tracks, particularly in high-traffic regions. The sheer volume of trains, coupled with insufficient infrastructure, increases the likelihood of accidents.

Human Error: Train derailments can occur due to human errors, including negligence in maintaining tracks, improper signaling, and inadequate inspection and maintenance practices.

Extreme Weather Conditions: India experiences diverse weather conditions, ranging from heavy monsoons to scorching heat. Such weather events can adversely affect track conditions, leading to track failures and derailments.

Lack of Technological Advancements: While India has made progress in adopting modern technologies in its railway system, there is still a need for further investment in advanced systems such as automated track inspection, sensor-based monitoring, and improved signaling systems.

Measures that have been taken or proposed by the government to prevent derailments

  1. Replacing old and worn-out tracks with new ones
  2. Eliminating all UMLCs by installing gates or bridges
  3. Upgrading signaling systems with modern technology
  4. Increasing surveillance and patrolling on tracks
  5. Enhancing training and supervision of railway staff
  6. Improving coordination and communication among various railway departments
  7. Setting up an independent rail safety authority

Government Introduced KAVACH: The Potential Solution:
To address the challenges associated with train derailments, the Indian Railways has developed an innovative system called KAVACH (Kurukshetra–Amritsar Rail Track Security System). KAVACH aims to enhance railway safety and prevent accidents through the use of advanced technology and real-time monitoring.

How KAVACH Works:
Sensor-Based Monitoring: KAVACH employs sensors installed along the tracks to continuously monitor various parameters such as track stability, temperature, vibrations, and stress levels. This real-time data is transmitted to a centralized control center for analysis.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: KAVACH utilizes AI and machine learning algorithms to process the vast amount of sensor data. These algorithms can identify patterns, predict potential failures, and generate early warnings for maintenance crews.

Predictive Maintenance: By analyzing the collected data, KAVACH can anticipate track failures and suggest timely maintenance interventions, reducing the chances of derailments.

Automated Alerts and Response: In the event of a detected anomaly or potential danger, KAVACH automatically generates alerts for concerned railway personnel. This allows for prompt response and preventive actions, such as slowing down or diverting trains from vulnerable sections.

The Potential Benefits of KAVACH:

Improved Safety: KAVACH has the potential to significantly enhance railway safety by proactively identifying and addressing track defects and other potential causes of derailments.

Enhanced Efficiency: With real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance, KAVACH can optimize the utilization of railway assets, minimizing disruptions caused by sudden track failures and unplanned maintenance activities.

Cost Savings: By preventing train accidents, KAVACH can help save lives, minimize injuries, and avoid substantial damage to railway infrastructure. This results in significant cost savings for the railway authorities and the economy as a whole.

Passenger Confidence: Implementing advanced safety measures like KAVACH can instill greater confidence in passengers, encouraging higher ridership and supporting the growth of the rail sector.

Conclusion:
India’s train derailments have been a persistent challenge, primarily due to aging infrastructure, overcrowding, human error, and extreme weather conditions. Initiatives like KAVACH hold immense potential to mitigate these risks and prevent accidents. By utilizing sensor-based monitoring, AI, and predictive maintenance, KAVACH can enhance safety, improve efficiency, and save lives. It is crucial for the Indian Railways to invest in such technological advancements and prioritize the modernization of the railway infrastructure to ensure a safer and more reliable train network for the nation’s citizens. However, these measures require adequate funding, planning and implementation, which are often lacking in the Indian railways. Moreover, these measures need to be complemented by a culture of safety and accountability among all stakeholders involved in the railway system.

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