Railway Reforms

Role of TCAS-Kavach in Railway Safety


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TCAS-Kavach

Mains level : Rail mishaps prevention


Central Idea

  • The tragic train collision in Vizianagaram district, Andhra Pradesh, resulting in 14 fatalities and 50 injuries, highlights the critical importance of implementing Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS).
  • In this case, the indigenous TCAS known as ‘Kavach’ was not in place on the route where the collision occurred, emphasizing the need for enhanced railway safety measures.

What is TCAS-Kavach?

  • Cab Signalling System: Kavach serves as a cab signalling train control system with anti-collision capabilities, acting as a vigilant guardian of the existing signalling infrastructure.
  • Development: Developed over a decade, starting in 2012, by the Indian Railways Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
  • Warning Mechanism: Kavach is designed to alert the locomotive pilot if they fail to notice a ‘red signal’ and continue at a speed that would surpass the signal. If the pilot does not slow down below 15 kilometres per hour, Kavach automatically applies the brakes, bringing the train to a halt.

Deployment of Kavach

  • Components: The Kavach setup involves three key components: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the tracks, RFID readers, computers, and brake interface equipment in locomotives, and radio infrastructure including towers and modems at railway stations.
  • Intercommunication: These components communicate with each other, enabling real-time monitoring of train movements and the transmission of signals to locomotives. Visual interferences, such as hilly terrain or haze, do not affect their functionality.
  • Antenna Communication: Locomotives are equipped with antennas that communicate with towers at railway stations and display warnings to the driver on their monitor.

Preventing Accidents with Kavach

  • Testimonial Evidence: Union Railway Minister test ride of Kavach demonstrated its effectiveness in averting accidents. Two trains moving towards each other on the same track at high speed were stopped 400 meters short of collision as Kavach applied automatic brakes.
  • Human Error: The Andhra Pradesh train accident was attributed to the deceased loco pilot’s ‘human error.’ Had Kavach been in place, it could have warned the pilot about overshooting the red signal and applied emergency brakes, potentially avoiding the accident.

Cost and Implementation Challenges

  • Deployment Cost: Implementing Kavach costs ₹50 lakh per kilometer for the Indian Railways.
  • Coverage: Currently, Kavach covers only 1,500 kilometers of rail routes, a small fraction of the total 68,000-kilometer network. Expanding its coverage, particularly on high-density routes, remains a formidable challenge.
  • Budget Allocation: The Indian Railways has allocated ₹4,000 crore under the Signalling and Telecom budget, including ₹2,000 crore from the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) fund for Kavach implementation.
  • Slower pace: However, the limited allocation may result in gradual progress, with only about 2,500 to 3,000 kilometers of installation expected during the year.

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