Indian railway modernization, Top technology to reduce the disaster like the Patna-Indore Express derailment

iit kanpur

The Patna-Indore Express has again come up with question regarding the Indian Railway and the modernization it has. The biggest question is about having the knowledge about what are these various technologies present across the world to help prevent the railway accidents like the patna-indore accident which killed around 115 people.

At present, the method for preventing accidents is quite low technologically. 

As per the reports from Scroll, around 100000 to 200000 employees hired to manually inspect the tracks.  There are a number of technologies being developed for improving the safety, with various organisations in India and around the world.

In india, IIT Kanpur is developing many number of technologies for improving the safety of rail journeys.

The process of derailment is characterized by heavy misalignment of the axle along with large oscillations and jerks. Vehicle dynamics software packages are being employed to carry out simulation of vehicles running on new or worn wheels. MEMS sensors for detecting vertical, horizontal accelerations and tilting have been identified and test runs are being conducted on Northern Railways. Recorded data is to be employed to arrive at a suitable criteria for derailment detection.

1. On Board Diagnostics

The objective of the project is to develop an On-board Diagnostics for Diesel and Electric locomotives through a network based real time control system. Diagnostics on existing locomotives is presently confined to the trouble shooting knowledge of the driver. The exercise includes development of appropriate instrumentation and signal processing strategy for various equipments which form part of the transmission and also for other auxiliary machines on board the locomotives. It will enable real time monitoring of vital locomotive equipments like prime mover, rotating machines, traction motor suspension bearings, axle bearings, radiator drive, air compressor, transformer, tap changer, pantograph, etc on electric/diesel locomotives. The system will also have self-diagnostic features.

Typical problems in diesel and electric locomotive rotating machinery includes vibration of traction motor, compressors, cooling fans, axle bearing etc. The diagnostic system will include on-line data acquisition and display over multiple channels simultaneously, Frequency analysis and Real-time FFT display, On-line trending analysis, On-screen trend display, Data storage with date-time information, Safe and tolerable limits for all channels, Automatic visual and audio alarm in case of limit crossing. The system also includes algorithmic diagnosis and communication through mobile network from the locomotive to central control unit.

  1. Sensors for Detecting Hotboxes and Hot Wheels

Most derailments can be traced to either the failure of wheel bearings or brake binding. Both conditions lead to overheating followed by seizure which in turn can cause wheel flats, track damage and derailment. Hot Axle and Box Detection (HABD) systems are used globally for the purpose. These rely on remote measurement of temperatures of the bearing boxes and the wheels. These systems have to be capable of measuring the temperatures very fast (at 200 kmph the measurement of a minimum of 10 points has to be made within 0.004 second). Any system to be used in India has to be designed to cope with climatic extremes.

A HABD system has been developed and tested. Industry partners have been identified and a prototype system is under fabrication. The system uses state of the art technology throughout. Data will also be available for integration into the signaling network of the Indian Railways.

3. Track Side Bogie Monitoring System

The objectives of this project include

  • Development of an automated system to be installed along the track for detecting faults in bogies of rolling stock (on-line monitoring of the condition of bogies)
  • Measurement of lateral and vertical rail forces
  • Automatic vehicle identification using RFIDs, (iv) development of instrumentation for detection of components of the rolling stock which may cause derailment.

Reprofiling and replacing worn wheel sets constitutes a significant portion of rolling stock maintenance costs. Misaligned wheel sets are also responsible for increased fuel consumption and accelerated track deterioration. Typically about 5% of wheel sets have abnormal behavior. The misaligned wheel sets represent a serious safety risk and hence earliest detection of misaligned wheel sets is essential. The automated system would measure the angle-of-attack (AOA), and tracking position (TP) of every passing wheel from which the inter-axle misalignment (IAM) and tracking error (TE) of wheel sets would be determined. Another way of monitoring the condition of a bogie is by measuring the vertical and horizontal rail forces using strain gages. This would enable the trackside system to monitor abnormal bogie behavior.

It is important to uniquely identify the vehicle whose bogie has abnormal behavior. RFID (Radio frequency identification) tags will be fitted on coaches/wagons for automatic vehicle identification.

Occasionally, parts of rolling stock come off due to failure of fastening. These are normally detected by visual inspection. Falling parts may also cause derailment and hence there is a need for their automatic detection and warning.

The project also envisages the use of an RF modem to communicate to the signal control room regarding abnormal behavior of bogies for necessary action. The relevant data collected by the automated system for every passing train will also be sent for their record.

4. Wheels and Axles of Improved Metallurgy

This project envisages developing steel of improved metallurgy for wheels and axles for better safety, reliability and enhanced carrying capacity without substantially altering design parameters. This is a large size project considering that Indian Railways currently have a population constituting of 1440000 wagons wheels, 280000 coach wheels, 72000 locomotives wheels and half the number of axles for each of the two; additionally several thousand new wheels are needed every year. The procedure adopted involves identification of steel compositions, appropriate laboratory scale trials followed by varying processing parameters for the purpose of controlling the microstructures of steels produced. Subsequently, their tensile properties, toughness, fatigue resistance and wear resistance are evaluated. The next step is production of steel samples on the pilot scale under optimized processing parameters. Data analysis and review is to be further carried out to standardize new processing parameters.

5. Measuring Wheel Technology

In this project instrumented wheel-sets are to be developed for measurement of instantaneous vertical and horizontal forces at the rail-wheel contact point. Seperate instrumented wheel-sets are being developed for locomotive, coach and wagon. These sets would be employed for purposes of certification of vehicles as well as in the development of anti-derailment devices. Development of an instrumented wheel is important for a variety of safety related reasons. The instrumented wheel-set will measure lateral and vertical forces and strains between a wheel flange and the rail-head. The relative magnitudes of the horizontal and vertical forces and their frequency characteristics hold the key to understanding of various wheel-track phenomenons. The Measuring Wheel is expected to serve as a major tool for carrying out studies on rail-wheel interactive forces, derailment analysis, wheel profile optimization, bogie hunting etc. Measuring Wheel is also essential for analysis of various types of stresses coming on rail and wheels during introduction of any new rolling stock in Indian Railways. The instrumentation will include strain-gauging and piezoelectric devices which will sense various dynamic phenomenons and transmit signals through telemetry. Equipment and the processors of primary handling data will be located on the axle of wheel-set. Information from the rotating wheel pair will be transmitted in a digital code inside the coach for registration and processing.

  1. Environment Friendly Railway Coach Toilet System

The Indian Railway runs several long distance trains involving journeys up to three nights. The existing coach toilet system consists of a lavatory in which the excreta are discharged directly to the ground through the lavatory chute. The coach toilets are by and large convenient to a verity of users, robust and almost maintenance free. However, the present system has some major concerns due to discharge of fecal matter on the track. These concerns include: damage to the rails, unacceptable aesthetic and hygienic/sanitary conditions, particularly on the railway stations, and non compliance to the environment regulations/standards/practices. An exercise is being carried out in this mission to conceptualize, design, and indigenously develop a working/ready to install environment-friendly coach toilet system for Indian Railways' passenger trains.

The toilet system will have the following attributes:

  • Convenient to a variety of users, robust, and minimum operation and maintenance complications.
  • Prevent damage to the railway track and coaches.
  • Maintain hygienic/sanitary conditions
  • Compliance with global environmental regulations/standard/ practices.

Approach: Use of Advanced Technologies with Traditional Wisdom.


  • Improved Toilet Seat
    Water seal with negligible amount of freshwater usage
  • Simple device for solid-liquid separation with no moving parts and external energy requirement
  • Compact novel device for recycling flush liquid
  • Essentially no discharge/emission/disposal of objectionable solid/liquid/gaseous streams anywhere
  • Byproducts: Liquid Fertilizer and Quality Organic Manure

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