The collision between three trains in Odisha’s Balasore has claimed at least 238 lives and injured about 900 others. The crash occurred around 7 p.m. Friday when the Coromandel Shalimar Express derailed before hitting a freight train. Another train, the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast, subsequently crashed into the derailed carriages.
To prevent such collisions between trains, a domestically developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system called Kavach was introduced by the Indian Railways. The system has been developed to improve the safety and efficiency of running trains. However, ‘Kavach’ was not available on this route in Odisha.
What is Kava?
Kavach, meaning armor, is an anti-collision system developed by the Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) to meet the goal of “zero accidents”. According to the railways, it is the cheapest automatic train collision protection system. The technology is Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) certified, the highest certification level. It means there’s a chance of only one mistake by Kavach in 10,000 years.
The running 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 countries.
— Ashwini Vaishnaw (@AshwiniVaishnaw) March 4, 2022
How does Kavach work?
Kavach uses high-frequency radio communication and works on the principle of continuous update of movement to avoid collisions. The system automatically activates the train’s brakes if the driver is not in control. Kavach also brakes to prevent collisions between two locomotives equipped with the system.
RFID tags are placed on tracks and in the station yard and provide signals for identifying the tracks and locating the train and its direction. When the system is activated, all trains within a radius of 5 km will stop to allow the trains on the adjacent track to pass safely. The On Board Display of Signal Aspect (OBDSA) helps the locomotive drivers see the signals even when visibility is poor due to bad weather. Usually locomotive pilots have to look out the window to see the signals.
Has Kavach been tested?
The government planned to bring 2,000 km of rail network under Kavach in 2022-2023. It is planned that the system will cover approximately 34,000 km of rail network. In March last year, Union Minister of Railways 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 managed to stop the train before 380 meters of another locomotive in front.