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Indian Railways’ anti-collision system Kavach gets a 4G/5G makeover

The Ministry of Railways looks to upgrade to 4G/5G (LTE-based) its indigenous anti-collision system Kavach and expedite its implementation, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Wednesday, amid criticism over rising cases of accidents and collisions.

Kavach is an indigenously developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system. The state-of-the-art electronic system activates the train’s braking system automatically if the driver fails to do so, and prevents the collision between two locomotives equipped with functional Kavach systems.

The tenders for the next-gen Kavach will be rolled out in May to June next year, while the tender to upgrade the existing Kavach technology to LTE will be floated by next month, Vaishnaw told reporters in New Delhi.

The need to upgrade Kavach comes as the ministry has been looking to update all its outdated communication systems and make anti-collision more efficient and effective over longer range.

This paper had exclusively reported in 2022 that the railways was exploring a direct leap to 5G for Kavach and mission critical voice operations in the railways.

In August, then railway board chairman and CEO Anil Kumar Lahoti had flagged significant capacity constraints in the industry, as the Kavach technology was new.

“Kavach is already in operation across more than 1,465 route kilometres (rkm) with work ongoing for over 3,000 rkm. In addition, surveys are being conducted for 6,000 rkm. However, we are confronted with critical industrial capacity issues. We would prefer to roll it out much more quickly,” Lahoti had told the industry.

The industry has now developed enough capacity in several aspects like design and safety to install Kavach on 1,500 kms of railway tracks per year, Vaishnaw said, adding that the Centre plans to increase this capacity to 5,000 rkm by 2025-26.

To that end, six vendors have been approved so far, which include German railway major Siemens AG and Japanese technology firm Kyosan Electric Manufacturing Company, and four Indian companies.

Some of these have worked on the technology already installed, which spans a little over 1 per cent of the railway network.

The anti-collision technology, priced at Rs 40-50 lakh per kilometre, costs 25-33 per cent as compared to its European counterparts, which India had been relying on so far.

Vaishnaw had done a live demonstration of Kavach in March, where two trains gave automatic warning signs when they were headed for a collision.

The national transporter was severely criticised for the recent cases of large-scale accidents, especially after the recent rear-end collision of two passenger trains in Andhra Pradesh, killing 14 people. Such a collision could have been avoided had the network been equipped with Kavach.

Meanwhile, there has been a significant push to enable 5G-based operations in the Indian Railways, which would lead to an upgrade in several outdated methods, particularly in communication.

The national transporter was allotted a 5 MHz spectrum in the 700 MHz band in June 2021, with a commitment to invest Rs 25,000 crore for the development of long-term evolution over the following five years.

Officials said that the ministry is also looking at taking a lead in intellectual property rights, for which it has established the Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya as the centre of excellence. Five patents have been granted so far. Business Standard

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