High-resolution cameras to detect “defects” on the tracks, real-time monitoring of train equipment, remote handling of emergency alarms and a graded removal of drivers’ cabins — several upgrades are being made by the Delhi Metro in the run-up to the country’s first driverless train launch.
DMRC executive director Anuj Dayal said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the driverless train service on the 37 km-Magenta Line (Janakpuri West to Botanical Garden) on December 28, and will also be launching
the fully operational National Common Mobility Card for travel on the 23-km Airport Express Line (New Delhi to Dwarka Sector 21).
The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CMRS) has stipulated many conditions that will have to be fulfilled by the Metro before introducing completely ‘unattended train operation’ (UTO), the technical term used to describe the final stage of driverless services. The CMRS gave its nod for UTO launch on December 18.
According to a copy of the CMRS clearance, seen by The Indian Express, “The rail check system consisting of high-resolution camera to detect rail defects must be commissioned before implementation of UTO…”
Sources said defects on tracks cannot be captured with the placement and resolution of the cameras currently installed. The bandwidth capacity to relay footage in real time to the command centres will also have to be augmented. As a result, complete transition to driverless mode is still some time away. For now, the Metro plans to equip one train each on Magenta and Pink Lines with these cameras.
“The above requirement is prerequisite to implementation of UTO. Presently, we are going to start driverless operation. There will be a roving attendant on board. Hence, those cameras are not essential at this stage. DMRC is, however, planning to install Rail Check System on one train each on lines 7 and 8 shortly,” Dayal told The Indian Express.
The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs issued a gazette notification on December 16, adding UTO mode of operation in the Metro Railways General Rules, 2020.
Under the previous norms, unattended or driverless train operations were not allowed.
As per the CMRS clearance, initially the trains will have “roving attendants”, who will be trained to intervene and operate trains if required, like in cases of emergencies. This is among the five stipulations laid down by the CMRS.
“Roving attendants shall be present in the cab till cab partition is removed and all driver control panels are covered, but will not take any action for normal operation,” it says.
Currently, drivers operate out of cabins, located at the front and back of every train, which block out the view of the tracks from the front and end coaches.
Following its transition to the driverless mode, the Metro plans to remove the partitions and cover the control panels. This will effectively allow passengers to view the tracks as trains zip through elevated lines and underground tunnels. The CMRS has directed the Metro to ensure that the on-board cameras are kept free of moisture to ensure clear visibility at the command centre so that the footage can be continuously monitored.
“DMRC has engaged a consultant (consortium of Systra MVA and Systra France) for inspection and review of systems for implementation of UTO operation. The report and its compliance shall be submitted to CMRS at the time of implementation of UTO operation on the main line,” the report added.
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