Kavach Automatic Train Protection System and Odisha Train Accident

"Kavach: India's Shield of Safety - Preventing Tragic Accidents and Revolutionizing Railway Protection

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One of the worst rail accidents in the country, in which more than three hundred people were killed and more than thousands were injured when three trains collided one after the other on June 2 in Odisha’s Balasore district, has raised several questions about train safety and has necessitated the deployment of Automatic Train Protection systems for reliable train operations. India, too has an indigenously developed ATP (Automatic Train Protection System) called ‘Kavach’. Kavach is meant to be an advanced and innovative automated train technology that has been designed to assist the Indian Railways in achieving Zero Accidents. The train protection system, designed and developed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in collaboration with the Indian industry and trials conducted and facilitated by the South Central Railway, has been mandated with the corporate objective of achieving safety in train operations across Indian Railways. It automatically activates the train braking system if the Driver fails to control the train within the speed limit. 

Further, it prevents a collision between two locomotives equipped with an operational Kavach system. It is a certified Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) technology with an error rate of one in 10,000 years. When fully operational, Kavach will be the world’s cheapest autonomous train collision protection system, costing Rs. 50 lakh per kilometre to operate compared to over Rs. 2 crore globally. It also opens up opportunities for railways to export this indigenous technology. 

On June 2, 2023, three Indian Railways trains, two express trains and a goods train, were involved in an awful incident that killed over 300 persons and injured over 1000 more. Trains 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express and 12864 SMVB – HWH Superfast Express were both derailed near the Bahanaga Bazaar Railway station in the Balasore district of Odisha at around 18.55 hrs. Following the tragic event, many people wondered why the indigenous anti-collision technology ‘Kavach’ did not prevent the accident from occurring

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating the incident, as is a high-level railway committee led by the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety, South Eastern Circle. The railway safety commissioner works for the Ministry of Civil Aviation and investigates all such occurrences.

Anti-Collision System in Indian Railways

Kavach is a train collision prevention system developed in India. This anti-collision technology minimises the likelihood of an error to a single error in 10,000 years. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw previously stated, ‘The indigenously-developed anti-collision system is SIL4 certified, which implies there is a likelihood of a single error in 10,000 years.’ In more technical terms, the Kavach technology is known as the Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) or the Automatic Train Protection System (ATP) system. Its goal is to reduce the number of rail accidents to zero. The technique has also achieved SIL4 certification, confirming that it can reduce errors to one in several years. The Kavach technology has proven its efficiency in several tests undertaken by Indian Railways, and the chances of the anti-collision system failing are nearly none. As a result, the question arises as to how the disaster occurred despite Indian Railways’ remarkable technology. The simple answer is that Kavach technology still needs to be set up on India’s entire train network, and this segment needs to be improved in Kavach technology.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman declared in Budget 2022 that Kavach Technology would defend India’s 2,000 kilometres railway network in the financial years 2022-2023. The Finance Minister stated in her announcement, ‘As part of Atmanirbhar Bharat, 2,000 kilometres of the rail network would be brought under the indigenous world-class technology Kavach in 2022-23, for safety and capacity augmentation.’ However, as the railway network spans more than 60,000 kilometres, it will take a while to deploy Kavach across India. That is why the priority sections of the railways are being worked on. Kavach is also designed to prevent head-on collisions between the engines of two trains coming on the same track. Train 12864 SMVT Bengaluru – Howrah Superfast Express derailed and crossed the adjacent track where the Coromandal Express was leaving.

While initial reports stated that the Coromandal Express train collided head-on with a goods train, causing four coaches of the superfast passenger train to derail, Railway officials denied this. The officials said that the Kavach technology possibly could not have functioned in this situation because all of the trains had derailed.

Kavach to boost safety on Indian Railways'! This indigenous technology  prevents trains from colliding | DH Latest News, DH NEWS, Delhi, Travel &  Tourism, Latest News, Travelmania, India, NEWS, Special , Kavach,

Working of Kavach

To prevent a collision, Kavach uses a network of devices mounted on two trains heading in opposite directions on the same track. Radio technologies and global positioning systems (GPS) are used to function the devices. This system avoids collisions by precisely evaluating the paths and trajectory of two trains at ‘collision risk’ and instantly activating the brake mechanism. Essentially, this system notifies loco pilots of any approaching train and automatically stops the train by deploying the emergency brakes. This occurs when two trains on the same track approach each other. However, in this case, one train derailed on another track, resulting in an accident. 

When a loco pilot jumps a signal (Signal Passed at Danger — SPAD), which is the major cause of railway crashes, Kavach sends a warning. When it detects another train on the same line within a certain distance, the system can immediately inform the loco pilot, take control of the brakes and bring the train to a halt.

First Testing

The South Central Railway’s Gullaguda-Chitgidda Railway stations saw a successful trial of Kavach on March 4, 2022. Ashwini Vaishnaw, the railway minister, inspected the trial, which created a head-on collision situation with two locomotives moving towards one other. The Kavach system activated the automated braking mechanism and brought the locomotives 380 metres apart to a standstill. Crossing of the red signal was also tested, and the locomotive did not pass the red signal because KAVACH required the automatic deployment of brakes. The automatic whistle sound was loud and clear when the gate signal approached. As the locomotive approached the loop line, Kavach automatically decreased the speed to 30 kmph from 60 kmph.

BW Explained Everything About Kavach System In Railways - BW Businessworld

Highlighted features of Kavach

Some features which the Ministry has highlighted include: 

  • Signal Passing at Danger (SPAD) prevention
  • Movement Authority is constantly updated with signal elements and features displayed in the Driver.
  • Loco Pilot operation cum Indication Panel (LPOCIP) / Driver Machine Interface (DMI).
  • Automatic Braking to prevent over-speeding.
  • Automated Whistling while approaching Level Crossing Gates
  • Collision avoidance between two locomotives equipped with operable Kavach.
  • SOS Messages during an emergency.
  • The Network Monitor System provides centralised live monitoring of train movements.

Deployment strategy for Kavach 

During 2022-23, Indian Railways planned to install a Kavach protection system covering a distance of 2000 kilometres. Kavach will control over 34,000 kilometres of network. According to reports, Indian Railway High-Density Network and Highly Used Network routes carry nearly 96% of all railway traffic. The Railway Board is focusing its efforts on Kavach works in order to safely handle this traffic. The initial priority is high-density lines, such as New Delhi-Mumbai and New Delhi-Howrah portions for 160 kmph with Automatic Block Signalling and Centralised Traffic Control, because these sections have a higher risk of driver error as trains run closer to each other. The next priority is the Highly Used Networks with Automatic Block Signalling and Centralised Traffic Control. The third is on other high-density passenger routes with automatic block signalling. The fourth phase included all remaining routes. The system is supposed to be extended by 4,000 to 5,000 kilometres in FY24. 

According to railway officials, 4G spectrum has been provided to Indian Railways, which will help to improve train reliability. However, according to the Minister’s response in the Lok Sabha, the total expense on the development of the Kavach anti-collision system is Rs. 16.88 crore. Kavach will be installed on the New Delhi-Howrah and New Delhi-Mumbai sections, with a completion deadline of March 2024. The initial implementation experience shall be used to take learning notes for future expansion. So far, 1,455 Rkm (Route Kilometres) of network route in South Central Railway has been brought under Kavach, of which 576 Rkm is in Maharashtra State, namely the Manmad (Excluding)-Dhamabad and Udgir-Parbhani sections. The Kavach System in the Ramtek Nagpur Parliamentary Constituency is yet to be covered. According to recent reports, the expenditure on Kavach is Rs.22 crore.

Conclusion

Kavach made headlines after the triple train clash in Odisha’s Balasore district. In a series of events, three trains crashed, killing approximately 300 people and injuring over 1000 more. Many people believe that Kavach could have averted the accident in the aftermath of the incident. However, according to a Railways statement, Kavach was unavailable on this route. After the incident, the rescue and restoration works on the route were concluded on a priority basis. The section was cleared for train operation after fifty-one hours of the mishap. 

Experts View on Kavach and Orissa Train Accident.

However, rail experts believe Kavach could not have prevented the tragedy of Balasore. According to Sudhanshu Mani, the brain behind Vande Bharat Express, Kavach could not have prevented the terrible Balapore tragedy. He also underlined the importance of upgrading India’s railway track infrastructure. ‘Kavach could not have prevented the accident. This is not a case of signalling failure at first glance. The first train derailment is the root cause. ‘The government should look into why the first train derailed,’ said Sudhanshu Mani. ‘The Coromandel Express driver could not have applied the brakes when he observed the obstacle because the train was moving at high speed,’ he added.

Vande Bharat Express trains now operational on 23 routes in India. See full  list | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Kavach Automatic Train Protection System in India

Kavach is a cutting-edge electronic safety device developed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in collaboration with the Indian industry that can help locomotive pilots avoid Signal Passing At Danger (SPAD) and overspeeding. Furthermore, it also supports train operations during bad weather conditions such as severe fog. The device enables improved control over train speed and eliminates potential accidents by automatically deploying brakes when necessary.

Kavach not only assists locomotive drivers in avoiding missed warning signals and controlling speed but also assures trains run safely in low-visibility conditions. Railway Minister Vaishnaw personally tested the ‘Kavach’ mechanism and tweeted about its use for extension. ‘The rear-end accident testing was a triumph. ‘Kavach autonomously stopped the locomotive ahead of another locomotive by 380 metres,’ Vaishnaw tweeted in March 2022.

Kavach trials were conducted on the South Central Railway’s Lingampally-Vikarabad-Wadi and Vikarabad-Bidar sections. The Centre, which spent Rs 16.88 crores developing Kavach, envisages its rollout on the New Delhi-Howrah and New Delhi-Mumbai sections, with a completion date of March 2024.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good Day,

    Please note that Kavach like any other train protection system relies on track embeded speed pick ups and automatic distant signals apply automatic brakes on the locomotive. In the case of the Coromandel Express disaster, the point position was “manually doctored by reversing direction cables either at the location box or relay room ” causing facing point indication lit yellow at control room local panel, fooling the automatic interlock system into allowing the station master to set the home signal, starter signal and advanced starter signal to green for the up main line, thereby allowing incoming Coromandel Express to pass through at 130 t kmph. Unfortunately the Kavach is not idiot proof as does not cater for similar “doctoring of point position” however Kavach has a design weakness because if we assume a situation where the point position was reversed with the correct red indication in control panel and due to some error the automatic interlocking system allowed the SM to set up & lock the main line as above, there would be insufficient breaking distance available to avoid derailment or collision at loop line. The Railways must look into this as the number of incidents involving unauthorised tampering of signals has significantly increased . However, if we consider similar goods train loop line collision at Bankura on 25th June, if Kavach was fitted, it would have prevented SPAD, as Kavach would have automatically applied the brakes and the locomotive would have come to a stop before the red home signal. What is surprising that in this case, that after a very brief inquest the Railways authorities have blamed the loco pilot of SPAD due to “micro sleeping” and have rather hastily closed the case where in-fact there are several unanswered questions on the action of the Station Master as he should have monitored the incoming freight train and alerted the loco pilot on walkie talkie as it hurtled into his railway station without any hint of slowing down. Also there are questions being asked why the facing point was not set to reverse position from the local control panel in control room after the loop line was occupied with a stationary train after the loop line, especially when the operator was aware of an incoming freight train as SPAD was always a possibility …. in-fact the possibility turned into reality ? Too many incidents, near misses which alarming as indicates systemic failure within the Indian Railways Safety management System and responsible stakeholders turning a blind eye . Infact CBI should investigate all related cases and come up with the bitter truth or the Govt should seriously consider in privatising the Indian Railways as with such dismal safety standards we will never be able to compete with the Chinese who ae now operating Maglev at 430 kmps service speeds. The operation of the Shinkansen ( Japanese bullet trains) at 280 kmph service speeds should be handed over to private entity as you need organisations with zero casualty risk status to operate such trains. The common man is now scared to travel by rail and its pathetic to see how a sensational breaking story seeking Indian media seems to have stopped perusing this serous issue once the fever to the Coromandel Express accident has died down …. Will it require another such accident where innocent lives are lost for the media to wake up …. shameful !

  2. Please note like any other train protection system, Kavach relies on embedded speed pick-ups and automatic distant signals to automatically apply emergency brakes on the locomotive causing the train to stop taking into consideration the trains speed and the relative breaking distance. In the case of the Coromandel Express disaster, since the CBI is taking an eternity to complete their investigation, we are of the opinion that the position of the facing point was “manually doctored by reversing direction cables either from the location box or relay room ” causing facing point yellow indication to be lit up in local panel, fooling the so called failsafe automatic interlock system into allowing the station master to set the home signal, starter signal and advanced starter signal for the up main line from red to green, thereby indicating to loco pilot of incoming Coromandel Express to pass through at speed of 130 kmph. Unfortunately, Kavach is not idiot proof as does not cater for similar “doctoring of point position” by idiots belonging to the Indian Railways S&T Dept, although Kavach does have a design weakness because if we are to consider a similar scenario however in this case we assuming an extremely unlikely situation where point is set in reverse position with red indication on the control panel and due to some software error the automatic interlocking system malfunctions without any alarm, thereby allowing an unsuspecting station master to set & lock the main line for incoming Coromandel Express , an active Kavach would get activated only when the train started to pass over the point and by the time emergency brakes came on Coromandel Express would have either derailed at the entry bend of the loop line or would have collided with the stationary goods train due to insufficient breaking distance available on the loop line. The Kavach design must factor in such unlikely situations as there have been several major incidents of late, involving unauthorised tampering of signals. However, for a similar incident involving a major collision of two goods train on loop line at Bankura, on 25th June, if Kavach was fitted it would have prevented SPAD, as Kavach automatically apply emergency brakes well in advance ensuring incoming goods train would come to a stop position well before crossing the red home signal.
    The way the Indian Railways have handled the goods train collision incident at Bankura leaves lot to be desired as it seems they were in great hurry to close the case with undue publicity. After a brief inquest by their safety officer, Indian Railways blamed the loco pilot of SPAD due to “micro sleeping” and have rather hastily closed the case without further investigation on the root cause for loco pilots falling asleep on duty, especially since Railways aware of this problem. There are several unanswered questions on the action taken by the Station Master, as he should have monitored the incoming freight train and alerted the loco pilot on walkie talkie as it hurtled towards his railway station without any hint of slowing down and stopping before the red home signal. Also, there are questions being asked why the facing point was not set to reverse position since the loop line was now occupied by another goods train, and why was this abnormal condition not picked up by the Automatic Interlock System and alerted the Station Master on the potential risk prompting SPAD prevention action like using the walkie talkie to communicate with loco pilot? The number of major incidents and near misses within a short span of time indicates systemic failure of the Safety management System and way Indian Railways have reacted highlights complacency which is an extremely dangerous situation as responsible stakeholders starts turning a blind eye. In-fact the CBI should be given the authority to investigate all related cases and come up with the bitter truth or the Govt should seriously consider in privatising the Indian Railways as with such dismal safety standards we will never be able to modernize the Railways and compete with the Chinese who are now operating Maglev at 430 kmps service speeds. The operation of the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) at 250 kmph service speeds should be handed over to separate organization as you need zero risk status on casualty to safely operate such high-speed trains. The common man is now scared to travel by rail and its pathetic to see how a sensational news seeking Indian press & digital media have stopped perusing the authorities on CBI investigation reports and CRS reports on related incidents. Does have to take another Coromandel Express incident to occur for the media to wake up and be responsible in drawing the attention of civil society and other responsible stake holders in pressuring the Govt to seriously investigate alleged systemic failures that seem to have plagued the Indian Railways for a while! Really shameful!

  3. Please note like any other train protection system, Kavach is an intelligent software using a complex array of algorithms which is probably looped in with ML ( machine learning) capable of continuous real time monitoring and predictive analysis of source data from embedded speed pick-ups and automatic distant signals, enabling timely and remote activation of emergency brakes on the locomotive causing the train to come to a stop position before any projected hazard, taking into consideration the relative breaking distance basis time lag to initiate a stop signal and the relative speed of the train. In the case of the Coromandel Express, since the CBI is taking an eternity to complete their accident investigation, we are of the opinion that the position of the facing point was “manually doctored by simply reversing direction cables by using a jumper either at the location box or relay room, causing facing point yellow indication to be lit up on local panel, fooling the so called failsafe automatic interlock system into allowing the not so innocent station master to set and lock the home, starter and advanced starter signals from red to green for the up main line, thereby indicating to the loco pilot of incoming Coromandel Express to safely pass through at a speed of 130 kmph. Unfortunately, Kavach is not idiot proof as does not cater for similar “doctoring of point position” by certain idiots belonging to the Indian Railways S&T Dept. However, if we are to consider recent incidents, Kavach may have a design weakness if we apply similar sequence of events, but altering the cause in order to simulate an unlikely situation where point is set in reverse position which shows up correctly as a red indication on the control panel and due to some software glitch the automatic interlocking system malfunctions without warning indication, thereby allowing an unsuspecting station master to set & lock the main line for incoming Coromandel Express, an active Kavach in place would have recognized a hazard situation only when the train started to ride past the point machine and by the time Kavach initiated emergency stop signal, the Coromandel Express would have already derailed at the entry bend of the loop line or would have collided with the stationary goods train, simply because there was insufficient breaking distance available on an occupied loop line for the given speed at which the train had entered the loop line. The Kavach design will have to factor in such unlikely situations as there have been several major incidents of late, involving unauthorised tampering of signals. However, for a similar incident involving a major collision of two goods train on loop line at Bankura, on 25th June, an active Kavach would have prevented SPAD, as Kavach would have automatically applied emergency brakes well in advance, ensuring incoming goods train would come to a stop position well before the red home signal. In context, the way the Indian Railways have handled the collision incident at Bankura, leaves a lot to be desired as it seemed they wanted to close the case quickly and without any undue publicity. After a brief inquest by their safety officer, Indian Railways blamed the loco pilots of SPAD for “micro sleeping” and closed the case without further investigation on the root cause for loco pilots to fall asleep on duty, f especially since Indian Railways aware of several recent SPAD related incidents. There are several unanswered questions on the action taken by the Station Master, as he should have monitored the incoming freight train and alerted the loco pilot on walkie talkie as it hurtled towards his railway station without any hint of slowing down and stopping before the red home signal. There are also questions being asked why the facing point was not set to reverse position after the loop line was occupied by another goods train and why was this abnormal condition not picked up by the Automatic Interlock System which should have alerted the Station Master on the potential operating risk, prompting SPAD prevention procedures, e.g. making use the of walkie talkie in order to communicate with the loco pilot or the guard ? The frequency of major incidents and reported near misses is an extremely alarming situation as it indicates systemic failure of the Safety Management System and way the Indian Railways have reacted does suggest complacency and with responsible stakeholders turning a blind eye, the common man will keep paying with their lives. In-fact the CBI should be given the authority to investigate all related cases and come up with the bitter truth or the Government should seriously consider in privatising the Indian Railways, as such dismal safety standards will prevent the modernising of our antiquated railway systems as compared to the Chinese who are now operating Maglev at 430 kmps service speeds. Even the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) operation at 250 kmph service speeds should be handed over to organization reputed for extremely high safety standards. The common man is now scared to travel by rail and frankly its rather pathetic to see how the sensational news grabbing press & digital media have now gone silent on CBI investigation reports and CRS reports on recent related incidents. Does have to take another Coromandel Express for the media to wake up and take the responsibility in garnering support from civil society and other responsible stake holders in pressuring the Government to appoint a joint parliamentary committee with the mandate to reform the Indian Railways as deemed necessary

  4. Please note like any other train protection system, Kavach is an intelligent software using a complex array of algorithms which is probably looped in with ML ( machine learning) capable of continuous real time monitoring and predictive analysis of source data from embedded speed pick-ups and automatic distant signals, enabling timely and remote activation of emergency brakes on the locomotive causing the train to come to a stop position before any projected hazard, taking into consideration the relative breaking distance basis time lag to initiate a stop signal and the relative speed of the train. In the case of the Coromandel Express, since the CBI is taking an eternity to complete their accident investigation, we are of the opinion that the position of the facing point was “manually doctored by simply reversing direction cables by using a jumper either at the location box or relay room, causing facing point yellow indication to be lit up on local panel, fooling the so called failsafe automatic interlock system into allowing the not so innocent station master to set and lock the home, starter and advanced starter signals from red to green for the up main line, thereby indicating to the loco pilot of incoming Coromandel Express to safely pass through at a speed of 130 kmph. Unfortunately, Kavach is not idiot proof as does not cater for similar “doctoring of point position” by certain idiots belonging to the Indian Railways S&T Dept. However, if we are to consider recent incidents, Kavach may have a design weakness if we apply similar sequence of events, but altering the cause in order to simulate an unlikely situation where point is set in reverse position which shows up correctly as a red indication on the control panel and due to some software glitch the automatic interlocking system malfunctions without warning indication, thereby allowing an unsuspecting station master to set & lock the main line for incoming Coromandel Express, an active Kavach in place would have recognized a hazard situation only when the train started to ride past the point machine and by the time Kavach initiated emergency stop signal, the Coromandel Express would have already derailed at the entry bend of the loop line or would have collided with the stationary goods train, simply because there was insufficient breaking distance available on an occupied loop line for the given speed at which the train had entered the loop line. The Kavach design will have to factor in such unlikely situations as there have been several major incidents of late, involving unauthorised tampering of signals. However, for a similar incident involving a major collision of two goods train on loop line at Bankura, on 25th June, an active Kavach would have prevented SPAD, as Kavach would have automatically applied emergency brakes well in advance, ensuring incoming goods train would come to a stop position well before the red home signal. In context, the way the Indian Railways have handled the collision incident at Bankura, leaves a lot to be desired as it seemed they wanted to close the case quickly and without any undue publicity. After a brief inquest by their safety officer, Indian Railways blamed the loco pilots of SPAD for “micro sleeping” and closed the case without further investigation on the root cause for loco pilots to fall asleep on duty, f especially since Indian Railways aware of several recent SPAD related incidents. There are several unanswered questions on the action taken by the Station Master, as he should have monitored the incoming freight train and alerted the loco pilot on walkie talkie as it hurtled towards his railway station without any hint of slowing down and stopping before the red home signal. There are also questions being asked why the facing point was not set to reverse position after the loop line was occupied by another goods train and why was this abnormal condition not picked up by the Automatic Interlock System which should have alerted the Station Master on the potential operating risk, prompting SPAD prevention procedures, e.g. making use the of walkie talkie in order to communicate with the loco pilot or the guard ? The frequency of major incidents and reported near misses is an extremely alarming situation as it indicates systemic failure of the Safety Management System and way the Indian Railways have reacted does suggest complacency and with responsible stakeholders turning a blind eye, the common man will keep paying with their lives. In-fact the CBI should be given the authority to investigate all related cases and come up with the bitter truth or the Government should seriously consider in privatising the Indian Railways, as such dismal safety standards will prevent the modernising of our antiquated railway systems as compared to the Chinese who are now operating Maglev at 430 kmps service speeds. Even the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) operation at 250 kmph service speeds should be handed over to organization reputed for extremely high safety standards. The common man is now scared to travel by rail and frankly its rather pathetic to see how the sensational news grabbing press & digital media have now gone silent on CBI investigation reports and CRS reports on recent related incidents. Does have to take another Coromandel Express for the media to wake up and take the responsibility in garnering support from civil society and other responsible stake holders in pressuring the Government to appoint a joint parliamentary committee with the mandate to reform the Indian Railways as deemed necessary.

    please refer to this edited version

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