By Sheetika Tandon
The concept of driverless trains is yet another significant technological development. While driverless trains have been around for a while, it is the first time that any rail service in India will sport them. Unsurprisingly, this feat has been achieved by the much prized Delhi Metro. Later this year, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will inaugurate new driverless trains on two new lines; the pink line, between Mukundpur and Shiv Vihar, and the magenta line, between Botanical Garden and Janakpuri West. The trains will cover a total distance of 96 kilometres, exclusively on these routes.
How do driverless trains work?
The phase III of the Delhi Metro’s expansion project will introduce trains that will run on an advanced signalling system called the ‘Communication-Based Train Control’ (CBTC). This system employs telecommunications between trains and tracks equipment for regular functioning. Initially, these trains will be run by operators and after sufficient trials, the unattended train operation (UTO) mode will be activated.
Under the UTO mode, the Operations Control Centre (OCC) will be responsible for kick starting the services every morning. This would include an automatic self-check which would ascertain the functional stability of the system well before it starts its operations. Later, the engine would be ignited and the trains would be functional for the day. The CCTV system would live stream the working from inside the trains. To keep a tab of the tracks, two front-facing cameras and an obstruction deflection device would be installed to remove minor impediments which may lead to derailment. The “sleep mode” will be activated at night and the same procedure will be followed every day.
These brand new trains will hold an increased capacity of about 2280 passengers with the driver’s cabin removed. Not only will they be significantly faster but also energy-efficient with better regeneration of energy during braking. The facilities of charging points, USB ports, and Wi-Fi will also be convenient add-ons for the travellers. To allow passengers to keep track of their journey, 37-inches LED screens with dynamic route maps will be installed inside the train compartments.
To ensure the safety of the passengers, train platform screen doors have been installed to prevent passengers from getting stuck between doors and falling off. They also have several alarm buttons throughout the train that will serve distressed passengers during their journey. The OCC will receive the image of the passenger who pressed the alarm button.
Keeping in mind the aesthetic aspects of the trains, improved flooring equipped with high-density ceramic wool insulation has been used to add to the overall appeal of these trains. In addition, fibre-reinforced plastic seats have been incorporated to ensure a systematic colour coding in the interiors, and to enable a clear distinction between the reserved and the unreserved seats.
Improving the current rail network
Once commissioned, the Delhi Metro will stand as the seventh largest metro network in the world with 234 stations and nearly 15 lakh daily commuters. Going by theoretical estimates stated by a DMRC spokesperson, the addition of these driverless trains will allow a train frequency of 90 seconds during peak hours against the current 150 to 180 seconds span. The addition of 15 new interchanging stations will reduce travel time significantly.
Being accustomed to trains driven by professionals who possess the acumen to deal with unusual situations, the transition into the automated setup is perhaps a risk. On the other hand, considering the success of this technology throughout the world, the long-term success of driverless trains is ensured.
The inclusion of these driverless trains will certainly increase the overall efficiency of metro networks by avoiding human errors and keeping up with time schedules. Coupled with multiple benefits, these trains mark the onset of a promising new-age and a technology driven country.
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