Stepping up its efforts to prevent train derailments, Indian Railways is opting for the latest technology to reduce its dependence on manual inspections and to improve the track maintenance system of its rail network.
Automatic track geometry-cum-video inspection systems, ballast regulating machines, rail grinding machines, automated multifunction track recording cars and ultrasonic flaw detection systems (USFD) are some of the modern equipment to be procured by the state-run transporter at an estimated cost of Rs 2,726 crore.
The Railways has allocated Rs 7,267 crore in the 2018-19 budget for safety-related works -- including track inspection, repair and maintenance -- a massive jump from Rs 1,933 crore in 2017-18, underlining the top priority its is giving to accident prevention measures.
"Till now, the Railways depended heavily on manual monitoring method to detect cracks in rail, defective fittings, ballasts, concrete sleepers and other track-related systems," said a Railway Ministry official.
The inspection of tracks has a clear bearing on safety and with increased train speeds and traffic, manual inspections are not only becoming unsafe for the inspecting staff but are also becoming difficult due to the shorter intervals between running trains.
"Now the focus is to shift from the manual method to state-of-the-art technology like the automatic track geometry-cum-video inspection system to detect defects. It is a proven technology and operational worldwide, including in Germany and Britain," the official said.
In the first phase, these will be fitted under the last coach or the guard's van of fast-moving Rajdhani trains. The system is capable of recording track geometry and video footage of track components which can be assessed by officials for necessary action.
"We are procuring 16 automatic track geometry-cum-video inspection systems, and 12 vehicular USFD machines to detect flaws in the tracks," the official said.
Besides, the Railways is also acquiring eight rail grinding machines to remove minute cracks on the tracks and 40 axle box accelerometers to detect unevenness on the rails.
The Railways shopping list also includes 30 ballast regulating machines, 20 ballast cleaning machines and four automated multifunction track recording cars to strengthen and upgrade its track maintenance systems.