Metro experiment: A system for driverless trains

Bombardier awarded contract to install new signalling system in Phase-III.

New Delhi | Published: February 3, 2014 2:14:42 am
The new system will cut the interval between trains. The new system will cut the interval between trains.

Two upcoming lines of the Delhi Metro will have a new signalling system, allowing driverless trains to operate on these stretches. The advanced signalling system — Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) — will be installed on the Mukundpur-Shiv Vihar and Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden lines, which are coming up under Phase-III.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) awarded the contract for implementing the new system on the Mukundpur-Shiv Vihar line to Bombardier Transportation last September. “This will be the first driverless, unattended mass transit solution in India,” a Bombardier spokesperson said.

The contract is valued at nearly Rs 3.9 billion, the spokesperson said. “Bombardier will implement the CBTC system called CITYFLO 650 on Line 7. The scope of the project covers the design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the advanced ‘moving block, radio-based’ system for the 58.4-km line. This includes both unattended and automatic train operating modes,” the official said.

“The new signalling system will be different in the sense that the conventional ‘fixed block system’ (a block refers to the stretch between two stations) will be replaced by the ‘movable block system’ (a block will be decided by train location and speed),” a DMRC spokesperson said.

“Currently, each ‘fixed block’ has sensors on the side of tracks, which record the speed, identity, location and direction of trains. The communication is done via cables and associated physical infrastructure. In the new system, each ‘movable block’ will continuously transmit information to computers through radio waves. Computers will be aware of the status of all trains in the region, thus facilitating close monitoring and fast operations,” he said.

Although the current signalling system — Continuous Automatic Train Control or CATC — used by the DMRC also allows monitoring of train location and speed, emergency braking and door supervision, and can run trains with minimum intervention by train operators. For safety reasons, a two-minute gap between trains is maintained. “With the new system, the frequency of trains can be safely increased, with the interval reduced to less than 90 seconds,” the official said.

According to the DMRC, the CBTC will also help bring down costs because of less maintenance and fewer wayside signalling equipment. Besides, increased frequency is expected to result in increased line capacity and more trips by the same number of trains.

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