18th January, 2018

Chip-based hooters to alert at unmanned railway crossings

The number of deaths at railway-crossings in India is rising every year.

The Indian Railways has designed a simple and unprecedented solution to contain the menace. The Indian Railways has collaborated with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to warn the road-users through hooters at unmanned crossings. Once the train would approach the crossing, the hooter will begin to whistle.

The railways are installing ISRO-developed integrated circuit (IC) chips on 10,000 locomotives of trains.

The system will be installed at two crossing gates in Sonepur division on the Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani route. And a few gates will be installed on the Delhi-Mumbai route shortly. The ISRO system on Delhi-Guwahati and Delhi-Mumbai route will be installed on trial-basis. Moe such systems will be expanded across numerous routes in phased manner.

How will it work?

The hooter at the crossing will get activated through the IC chip in trains when the train would be about 500 metres away from the rail-road intersection. The siren of the hooter will alert the road users as well as the train driver near the crossing. The hooter will whistle louder as the level-crossing nears. Also, once the train passes, the hooter would become silent.  

The satellite-based system will also help railways in mapping the area. The technology will be useful in the accidents to ascertain the exact location of trains and topography.

India and unmanned crossings

India has more than 30,000 railway-crossings where vehicles cross the railway tracks. The accidents occur in almost every city at these crossings. About 40 per cent of the rail-accidents occur because of the 10,000 unmanned railway crossing across the country.

According to the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and the Railways Act of 1989, it is the train that has the right of way at an intersection between roadways and railways. The road users are expected to exercise caution. The law says that the driver of a road vehicle is supposed to get off at an unmanned level-crossing, look on both the sides of the line to ensure there is no train coming and only then cross. It is obvious, that no one cares to get off the vehicle before passing a rail-road intersection and this is where most accidents happen.

Now a satellite-based system will alert the road users of approaching trains at unmanned level crossings. The satellite system will help in tracking the train movement on a real-time basis as well.