Before driverless cars or trucks, driverless trains may roll out in the country. New Metro rail lines across India will be using fresh signalling technologies that will enable them to run driverless trains.
Before driverless cars or trucks, driverless trains may roll out in the country. New Metro rail lines across India will be using fresh signalling technologies that will enable them to run driverless trains. However, the Metro undertakings are not rushing in to show off their driverless tags. They would instead prefer a gradual shift to driverless trains till everyone gets used to the idea and is comfortable with it.
Metro trains are being equipped with the communication-based train control (CBTC) system that will enable these Metro trains to go driverless. But the main advantage of the new signalling technologies is that it increases capacity while reducing operating costs on the same line without additional investments.
No CBTC signalling system has been commissioned so far, but such systems are under various stages of implementation across the country, said Brijesh Dixit, MD, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro), which is executing the 31.3-km Pune Metro and 38.2-km Nagpur Metro projects.
Dixit said while the existing Metros are opting for this system in their new lines, new Metro projects like Pune and Nagpur are beginning with this state-of-the-art signalling system. Kochi Metro has also opted for this new system. New lines in the Delhi Metro, Bengaluru Metro, Lucknow Metro, Hyderabad Metro and Mumbai Metro Phase III are moving to this new system as well.
“The signalling system proposed by DMRC in the detailed project report (DPR) for Pune was a conventional one, but since the time the DPR was prepared, the signalling system has changed considerably. So, we went for the CBTC system which is now used world-over, including in new lines in London, Paris and Singapore,” Dixit said.
Siemens Limited and Siemens Rail Automation have already won the R287-crore order from Nagpur Metro for their CBTC solution called Trainguard. Other companies such as Alstom, Nippon and Thales are also in this space.
“CBTC allows trains to be run without drivers, but we will be making a gradual entry into this because our country is not yet ready to accept driverless trains. It will take time but we will have the capability in Pune to do so,” Dixit added.
“Initially, it will be a problem to get people used to the discipline required to deal with these automatic systems and we also need experience in handling emergencies and when that happens trains can go driverless,” the Maha Metro MD said.
Unlike the conventional system, where the trains have to maintain a gap of three minutes, the CBTC system allows trains to follow each other within one and a half minutes on the same track. With the help of sensors on the track and other systems, the trains maintain distance between each other automatically.
According to Dixit, this system allows much more frequency and it can run more trains, and Pune would need this as traffic would be heavy here. The other advantage is that the train can run with four coaches and go to eight.
“The length of the train is lesser and frequency better, this will attract people more to the Metro rail. People tend to use this public transport if they are confident about its frequency and reliability,” Dixit added.