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India unveils Mobile Train Radio Communication system

A new Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) system has been unveiled at the Divisional Railway Manager’s Office in Mumbai. The MTRC system is a technologically advanced communication system, which can help prevent train accidents and reduce delays by making communication effective. It facilitates instant and constant interaction between the train crew, the control centre, and the station master.

According to a press release, the system, which was first proposed in 2013, acts similarly to air traffic control (ARC) for aircraft. The system will monitor, track, and aid communication between all 100 trains and the control room, providing real-time updates and ensuring the smooth movement of rakes.

The tetra-based system will be operated from the central control room. It has a combination of cameras and microphones and can record digital data for up to 90 days. The system was commissioned for the Western Railway, which is one of the 18 zones under the Indian Railways and is among the busiest railway networks in the country.

The General Manager of Western Railway, Alok Kansal, explained that the system has been installed in 90 out of 100 rakes running between Churchgate and Virar. The 60-kilometre suburban section between the two is a high-density-traffic route where trains run with headway (at an interval) of approximately three minutes in peak hours. The section transports over 3.4 million passengers every day and operates over 1,300 services. The existing very high frequency (VHF)-based communication does not facilitate communication between the crew of the running train and operators in the control office.

MTRC is an integrated system with the ongoing train management system so that controllers can communicate with the driver and guards by using the train number or cab number code. In case of emergency, MTRC can make a broadcast call, the section controller can initiate the call to all guards and the same announcement can be extended to the passengers. The system is expected to be especially useful during monsoon when tracks get waterlogged and trains make an abrupt halt in the middle of the track. Even motormen can speak to other motormen for updates or to check the extent of technical failures.

With the system, rail authorities can provide information to commuters about whether there are technical problems like signal failures, OHE snapping, track failure, or a trespassing accident. MTRC uses the lowest time to connect calls, which is 300 milliseconds. The system can also track the location of trains through GPS and find out if a level crossing is open or closed. Information will be provided within ten minutes of an incident occurring. There are towers at Mahalaxmi, Borivali, Virar, Churchgate, Bandra, and Jogeshwari that supplement the system.

Western Railways is committed to providing the best of the services to the public, be it with the number of trains, quality of service, or safety of travellers. MTRC will enable passengers’ convenience and in case of an emergency, prompt communication through its advanced technology, Kansal stated. Deliberate efforts of the department have brought the number of accidental deaths and injured per day down from around 4.50 in 2019 to 1.30 in 2020.

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