Collision-free Railways

Our Country's Anti-collision Devices network with each other and form an intelligent safety layer to protect railway staff as well as the passengers from dangerous collisions/washouts in floods. A more positive and aggressive implementation is needed in public interest.

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Location: Hyderabad /Herndon VA USA , Andhra Pradesh, India

Fellow of National Academy of Engineering Fellow of Institution of Engineers, M.Tech., Indian Railway Service of Engineers (1970-2005) Former MD/ Konkan Railway Corporation

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Atrilab.MoR.08.01.07 Hyderabad
07 Jan. 2008

Dear Shri Jena,

Sub: Our country’s opportunity to lead in railway technology could be lost with short sighted ego-clashes of certain individuals with limited understanding of the subject matter on hand & abetted by activities of strong technology rivals trying to stunt growth of our country

Ref: Case of Knowledge Embedded Anti-collision Device network technology of Indian Railways.
Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC):
To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.
May I seek your indulgence to spend a few moments to read some of my reflections as the inventor and originator of the Anti-collision device network, as I feel precious time is lost in implementing a proven technology, exposing the Ministry to risk of avoidable public criticism, and, God forbid, if unwanted incident happens on railways.
It was sheer anguish of watching the shame of railways in 1999, when we lost hundreds of lives in collisions one after the other that I promised the then CRB that we can do something cost-effectively for such a large network, to save lives. I demonstrated the first prototypes in Dec 1999, to the Safety Commission and later to the then Minister of Railways, Ms Mamata Banerjee. It took real inspiration for me to discover and frame the Deviation Count theory and track topology derivation, which made possible to get over the inadequacy of the GPS to distinguish tracks within 5m distance. Even World Intellectual Property Office Geneva singled out this invention from 1.5m patents in the world at that time, for special mention.
From then on, the uphill task of proving and reproving the system went on over the years, with un-ending revisions of functional requirement specifications with the result that the system has become much more complex than mere prevention of collisions in mid-sections at high speeds, but also prevent all kinds of dangerous collisions in yards too. So far so good. The competencies to either make or check such complex knowledge based system cannot be readily available within our railway resources. Hence, I had to approach the ETDC Chennai, a Govt. of India organization, for complete assurance of performance quality of software both in simulated conditions as well as in field conditions and for hardware M/S Lloyds independently.
The system is a knowledge-based system, a self-learning and correction process also has been built in by me during implementation phase, called incubation period- which will correct any mistakes during survey stage, as well as factor in the local time variant GPS signals and radio transmission conditions. You may call it the road learning experience of a driver new to the route! After all the ACD is a cyber-driver, only to stop not to drive the train when danger is perceived!
For auditing independently I made sure even after my retirement, at the time of field trials, renowned M/S Lloyd UK, Rail Division to check and analyze the results- which is the international practice of independent assessment. Whatever the Ministry prescribed as performance requirements were checked for and certified. To avoid possible play of vested interests, which may not be in the larger interests of railways in particular, and nation in general, as we are spending public funds, this is the only methodology to have credible assessment of a new technology. Our country lacks skills of developing and implementing new technology and I am forced to lay down the norms following the international practices and principles of honest governance.
Field trials involving RDSO, zonal railways and Konkan Railway, supported by jointly signed fact sheets, which again is a methodology I insisted from the beginning in the year 2000, again proved that the ACD system as developed by our Indian Railways proves itself beyond expectations.
When power is switched off, batteries are not renewed or yard layouts changed without advising the signal branch, naturally the signals too do not function as they should. It is the case for the ACD too. One cannot expect the ACD to compensate for all such conditions too- and perform even better than the signal systems- one should remember it is an additional layer and not a vital system like signals at this stage, but takes care of human errors, and in no way takes away, the responsibility of the driver and the stationmaster. It is an extremely cost effective intelligence based device drawing strength from networking with each other approaching very high standards of performance amazingly with better availability than the current signal system in N F railway. An effort of more than 250 engineers over 7 years is truly a showpiece for the country and now it is a matter of having a proper strategy to implement across the country with proper maintenance manuals as we have for signal equipment too.
There is a learning curve for the railway maintenance units- incompetence or unwillingness to follow the curve- in no way can be camouflaged as ACD equipment’s deficiency.
To say briefly the governing principles are:
1. When ACD is alive, it works- let us not keep doubting it! However, when NOT alive we should be warned.
2. Frequent battery/power source checks and periodicity for routine replacements to be enforced.
3. Sample checks of about 2% of ACDs per month of about half an hour data can be downloaded and checked for any inconsistency, to assure ourselves.
4. Any serious unusual occurrences of braking of a train will automatically be reported in our daily operational monitoring of trains and individual examination of such cases,will reveal the true cause- it could be a case of battery back up, replacement failure, or some yard lay out modifications without advising the ACD maintenance group. It is rarest of rare cases that the chip itself started malfunctioning.
5. If still an untoward incident takes place, the log of events available for the last 10 minutes should be sufficient to do analysis whether the ACD did perform as needed or not. Even though it is not a black box as per airline norms, it is very rare that in a collision case without fire the small memory device will be crushed in the cab.
6. What is important is when ACD applies the brake the record of the event is maintained and this log is adequate for all practical purposes. It is a mistake to convert enthusiastically the ACD as a data logger and to go on reporting on its condition at all times. The ACD is not a data logger but certainly when one does not function, other ACDs note and report to management.
7. An ACD-failed loco shall be treated as a failed loco and no train can enter a declared ACD territory without ACD- we have to accept this discipline.
8. For operational reasons if a loco is not fitted with ACD and has to enter ACD territory, then we must fit a portable ACD- which has built in siren, and instead of braking, it will emit siren for the driver to apply brakes, when danger is perceived.
9. All locos, including the new ones, should get ACD fitted as original equipment and all loco sheds should be given priority to get ACDs fitted, while route wise ACD coverage progresses in stages. This approach is essential because now a loco may travel almost any where in the network.
Training inputs in ZTS to impart standard knowledge for handling in ACD territories, we must provide, including refresher courses, for Drivers, Station Masters and Guards to learn about their “Saathi,” the cyber friend of theirs. Similarly in Railway Staff College and IRISET, all officers should now get a standard brief so that they are not ignorant.
My humble submission is that it is no more a case of proving ACD- it is proven well beyond doubt- what is at test is the capacity of Indian Railway Officers to absorb a new technology! If new imported signal systems as well as ABB or GM loco technology can be absorbed, I find no reason how Indian Railway Officers cannot come out with flying colours in absorbing this new technology, all the more so being from our own country, so with all pride!
To delay further will be a great disservice not only to our own Hon’ble Minister, who has put our railways on the world map, but also to the people of our country.
With warm regards,
Yours truly,

(B. Rajaram)
Shri K.C Jena, Chairman Railway Board, Ministry of Railways, New Delhi.

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