Invention helps commissioning of century-old rail service

| 04 October 1999 23:13 IST

It is really shot in the arm for Indian railways when it reopens the century-old rail service by inventing indigenous technology and makes the people all happy again after a long wait for over three years.

The people of Goa, who have been utilising the rail service since 1887 during the Portuguese regime, would now start travelling once again – now on a broad gauge, enjoying the lush green Western ghats and experiencing the thrill of Dudhsagar waterfall.

The credit goes to N C Sinha, general manager of the South Central Railways, for inventing a device – the Automatic Energy Brake System – which could be now used in any ghat section for safe running of trains.

The hitch was precisely lying here due to which passenger rail service remained suspended since 1996, even after completing the broad gauge work on this route at the cost of over Rs 159 crore.

No permission was granted by the Safety Commissioner for Railways for passenger service because no catch sidings were provided to stop a run away train in case driver loses control on the steep gradient.

It was obviously risky to allow passenger service as the 26 km long ghat section from Castlerock to Collem with one in 37 gradients, passing through 16 tunnels and 48 curves with six stations was declared unsafe for passengers to travel. Accordingly, only goods traffic was allowed from March 1997.

"Since the catch sidings were not existing in the metre gauge system, the same were not provided at the time of conversion", is a standard reply the railway authorities still give. It is a lapse, admits Ram Naik, minister of state for railways, while assuring to probe into it, if a demand is made in this direction.

The railways then estimated that provision for catch siding would cost the rail authorities acquisition of 81.7 acres of forest land and around Rs 70 crore while the eager passengers on the route had to wait for minimum period of three years.

Sinha, instead, thought of an alternative and invented the new system. Allowing maximum speed at 25 kms per hour, the devise automatically puts brakes if the train starts sliding down the slope at the higher speed and stops in the event of emergency within 230 metres.

"It is the most innovative work and the golden moment in the history of Indian railways", says Naik, while announcing an award of Rs 10 lakh for the whole SCR division on the day of opening the track for passenger traffic.

While only one local train has presently been put into operation between Vasco to Londa (Karnataka), he plans to resume the old rail services going to Delhi, Hyderabad, Tirupati and Bangalore by March end, after 200 coaches with air brake system are built for those trains, as advised by the Safety Commissioner for Railways.

"It's ridiculous", comments Naik as he was not allowed to flag off the first train from Vasco station on Monday by the Election Commission of India, though polling in the whole country was completed. He however came down to Goa and addressed a press conference.

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