For the first time in India, the University of Birmingham will design a “digital twin” of Indian Railway corridor to help the national transporter with the trial of the 4G-based ultra-modern signalling system European Train Control System (ETCS) Level-2 on four routes.
The Indian Railways entered into an agreement with the University of Birmingham, which offers postgraduate courses in Railway Safety and Control Systems, last month for this advanced technological aid.
As per the agreement, the University’s Centre for Railway Research and Education will develop the “digital twin” model to clone the realtime train movement data of four corridors – Nagpur-Bandra (175 km), Jhansi-Bina (155 km) Yerraguntalla-Renigunta (165 km) and Vizianagram-Palasa (145 km) – where the trial of the ETCS Level-2 shall take place. The project will cost approximately Rs 1,700 crore, and global industry majors are in the fray for the same.
Indian Railway corridors are equipped with the old signalling system, hence the “digital twin” will show how these corridors will behave once the sophisticated ETCS Level-2 system is installed, thereby eliminating the chances of error during the trials.
The software module will also show Indian Railways, through the digital twin, how much benefits are available once the ETCS Level-2 is superimposed into the corridors – capacity enhancement, increased safety of operations and possibly an increase in speed as well, policymakers said. The tender of the trial of the system on four routes will be awarded soon.
Since Indian Railways does not have the in-house capability to design such a complex software module, the “digital twin” will help the national transporter in its signalling upgrade in the future.
The ETCS Level 2 is a complex system of electronic devices installed along tracks to convey train signals to a computer fitted in the locomotive, doing away with the need for track-side signal indicators. The main feature of this system is that the devices fitted in the tracks get synced continuously to reflect the current signals on the route, and to update that information in a running locomotive via wireless frequency.
It negates the possibility of collision, as trains are electronically prevented from jumping signals and, even if they do, the locomotive comes to a halt automatically.
Globally, including in Europe, the wireless technology was originally based on the 3G-Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), while India is looking at a futuristic 4G Long-term Evolution (LTE)-based system.
The government this year approved the ETCS Level-2 system to be installed in the routes along Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals for an estimated cost of around Rs 30,000 crore, sources said. The national transporter has also decided to equip its Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah semi-high speed corridors with this system when the upgrade project happens.
Earlier, the Railways had planned to convert its entire broad gauge network, running on the automatic signalling system to the ETCS Level-2 system at one go – a project that would cost an estimated Rs 78,000 crore. While that plan did not take off, the subsequent idea was to have a trial of the system and learn from the experience on four corridors.
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