Indian railways is in talks with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and IIT Kanpur to develop a radio-based warning system at all unmanned level crossings of railways, said AK Mittal, chairman, railway board. The new technology is one of the preventive measures planned by Indian railways to develop a strong safety system. Other measures such as renewal of tracks structure and upgradation of old bridges to avoid derailment are to be taken, according to the railway board chairman, to ensure safe passage of travellers as well as trains. To bring this additional capacity to the current system, the chairman cited financial crunch as a roadblock.
The railways minister, therefore, has sought “a fund of Rs 1 lakh crore in the name of ‘special safety fund’ from the ministry of finance,” said the chairman. According to the chairman, 40 percent of fatal incidents on Indian railways occur at unmanned railway crossing sites. While another 40 percent, he said, is due to system failure like derailments, “which are avoidable”. In a meeting of all general managers on agenda of safety at Rail Bhawan, on Tuesday, the chairman said that the new technology will be designed in a way that road users at railway crossings will get alerts, through satellite, on their mobile phones once a train enters into the 100 meter radius zone of the unmanned crossings. “The process is still underway. We are discussing this technology with ISRO,” said AK Mittal. Railways ministry has already signed an MoU with IIT Kanpur in March this year to work on this system.
The system is an addition to the railways’ plan of replacing the entire unmanned railway crossings from its network with the construction of over bridges or under pass like subways, at possible locations. Places where such construction is not possible will be manned, the ministry said. Expressing concern over safety audit measures, railways minister Suresh Prabhu said, “No excuses for lapses are acceptable.” Pointing out that while empowering general managers, he has delegated and decentralised the powers, the minister said that with “great power comes greater responsibility and accountability”. Backing the statement, chairman AK Mittal said that the ministry has fired 97 of its officials for their lack of responsibility towards safety audits.