The collision between three trains in Odisha’s Balasore has claimed at least 238 lives and injured around 900 others. The crash took place around 7 pm on Friday when the Coromandel Shalimar Express derailed before hitting a goods train. Another train, the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast, then crashed into the derailed coaches.
To prevent such collisions between trains, an indigenously developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system named Kavach was introduced by the Indian Railways. The system was developed to enhance the safety and efficiency of running trains. However, ‘Kavach’ was not available on this route in Odisha.
What is Kavach?
Kavach, which means armour, is an anti-collision system developed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) to achieve the goal of “zero accidents”. According to the railways, it is theautomatic train collision protection system. The technology is Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) certified, the highest certification level. It means that there is a probability of just one error by Kavach in 10,000 years.
The operation cost of the anti-collision system is Rs 50 lakh per km, which is significantly lower than the cost of such technology used in other nations.
SPAD test, tried crossing signal at red. Kavach is protecting and not allowing the Loco to move.
— Ashwini Vaishnaw (@AshwiniVaishnaw)
How does Kavach work?
Kavach makes use of high frequency radio communication and operates on the principle of continuous update of movement to prevent collisions. The system automatically activates the brakes of the train if the driver fails to control it. Kavach also applies brakes to avoid collision between two locomotives that are equipped with the system.
RFID tags are placed on tracks and at station yard and signals for identifying the tracks and locating the train and its direction. When the system gets activated, all trains within 5 km will stop to let the trains on the adjacent track pass safely. The On Board Display of Signal Aspect (OBDSA) helps the loco pilots view the signals even when the visibility is low due to bad weather. Usually, loco pilots have to look out of the window to spot the signals.
Has Kavach been tested?
The government had planned to bring 2,000 km of rail network under Kavach during 2022-23. It has aimed that the system will cover around 34,000 km of rail network. In March last year, Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw oversaw a test of Kavach. In the test, two trains, one with the railway minister on board and the other with the Chairman of the Railway Board, approached each other at full speed. According to Mr Vaishnaw, Kavach was successful in stopping the train before 380 metres of another locomotive in the front.