Kavach system, Railways
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw inspecting the trial of Kavach system in March 2022. Photo: PIB

Triple train crash in Odisha: What is Kavach system and was it installed?

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After a horrific railway crash involving three trains in Odisha claimed the lives of more than 260 people on Friday (June 2), questions are being asked of the Railways over the ‘Kavach’ system that could have averted this deadly accident.

The Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train were involved in the triple-train crash which left about 900 people injured.

“The rescue operation has been completed. We are starting the restoration work.
The Kavach system was not available on this route,” Amitabh Sharma, the
Indian Railways spokesperson told the media.

The unavailability of Kavach system has given ammunition to the Opposition parties including the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) to attack the Centre.

Also read: Triple train crash LIVE: Modi to visit Odisha; toll rises to 260

On social media, a video of Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw explaining the benefits of Kavach was doing the rounds.

What is Kavach system?

According to the Indian Railways, it has indigenously developed an automatic train protection (ATP) system rechristened as Kavach (Train Collision Avoidance System), to prevent accidents due to human error resulting in Signal Passing at danger and over-speeding.

Also read: Odisha train tragedy exposes safety, fiscal issues, dipping revenue, rising debt

Kavach is developed by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in collaboration with Indian industry and trials facilitated by South Central Railway to achieve the corporate objective of safety in train operations across Indian Railways. It is a state of the art electronic system of Safety Integrity Level – 4 standards.

Kavach is meant to provide protection by preventing trains to pass the signal at Danger (Red) and avoid collision. It activates the train braking system automatically if the driver fails to control the train as per the speed restrictions. In addition, it prevents collision between two Locomotives equipped with functional Kavach system. Kavach is one of the cheapest, Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) certified technologies with the probability of error is 1 in 10,000 years. Also, it opens avenues of export of this indigenous technology for Railways, the Railways said.

Also read: Rescuers try to raise buried coach at triple rail crash site

Features of Kavach

  • Prevention of Signal Passing at Danger (SPAD)
  • Continuous update of Movement Authority with display of signal aspects in Driver Machine Interface (DMI) / Loco Pilot operation cum Indication Panel (LPOCIP)
  • Automatic Braking for Prevention of Over Speeding
  • Auto Whistling while approaching Level Crossing Gates
  • Prevention of collision between two Locomotives equipped with functional Kavach
  • SoS Messages during emergency situations
  • Centralised live monitoring of Train movements through Network Monitor System.

Also readTrain crash: For rescue workers, a night of blood, sweat and tears

What Railways minister had said on Kavach

In December 2022, Vaishnaw told the Rajya Sabha that Kavach system would be installed in a phased manner.

“Keeping in view the complexities involved in implementation, which require all Rolling Stock, way side stations and track to be equipped with ‘Kavach’, it has been decided to implement ‘Kavach’ in a phased manner. So far, ‘Kavach’ has been deployed for 1,455 Route Kms on South Central Railway with 77 nos. of locomotives. Currently, ‘Kavach’ work is in progress on Delhi-Mumbai & Delhi –Howrah corridors (3000 route Kms).

“Other benefits of ‘Kavach’ include controlling speed of trains by automatic application of brakes on approach of turnouts, repeating of signal aspects in cab, which is useful for higher speeds & foggy weathers, and auto whistling at level crossing gates. At present ‘Kavach’ is being implemented on Indian Railways in a phased manner. Further, ‘Kavach’ does have export potential in future,” he added.

Also readOdisha’s train crash: What exactly happened? Here are some details

When Kavach was trialled in March 2022

In March 2022, Vaishnaw inspected the trial of Kavach system between Gullaguda-Chitgidda Railway stations on Lingampalli-Vikarabad section in Secunderabad division of South Central Railway.

The minister was onboard the locomotive which moved from Gullaguda towards Chitgidda. During the trial, a head-on-collision situation was created as both locomotives were moving towards each other. The Kavach system initiated the automatic braking system and halted the locomotives 380 metres apart. Also, crossing the red signal was tested; however, the locomotive did not cross the red signal as ‘Kavach’ necessitated the application of brakes automatically. Automatic whistle sound was loud and clear when gate signal approached. The crew did not manually touch the sound and braking system during the trial. The speed restriction of 30 Kmph was tested when the locomotive was run on loop line. Kavach automatically reduced the speed to 30 Kmph from 60 Kmph as the locomotive entered the loop line, the Railways had said.

Railways’ 4 priorities to install Kavach

Following trials, the Railway Minsitry had announced that the first priority for
rolling out the safety system would be for the speed running trains that run up to
160 kilometre per hour on the high-density routes of New Delhi Mumbai and
New Delhi Howrah sections with a target to complete by March 2024.

The second priority would be to implement Kavach system on trains running on
heavily used networks with automatic block signaling and centralised traffic
control. In the third phase, Kavach will be used on other passenger high density
routes with automatic block signaling. The fourth priority is on all other routes.

However, in accordance with data from the Railway Ministry, out of the total
route length of 67,956 kilometres and running track length of 99,235 kilometres,
the Kavach system has currently been implemented on 1,455 kilometers route on
the South-Central railways.

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