Rattled by Monday’s fire incident in the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani, the railways have announced plans to install automatic fire detection and fire alarm systems in the premier Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.
“The device, conceived and designed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), is being tested in the Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani. If found successful, the systems costing Rs1 lakh per coach will be installed in all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains by the year-end”, an official said.
The system alarms have been designed to set off, in the event of atmosphere changes within a coach, officials said.
Over past years, the Railways have suffered a series of fire incidents — mostly caused by electrical short-circuiting.
Major fire mishaps in trains include the 2009 incident in the Gautami Express in Andhra Pradesh, when 31 passengers were charred to death. On May 15, 2003, fire spread in six coaches of the Golden Temple Mail, causing 36 deaths and injuries to 15 others. In the disaster at Godhra in Gujarat, 58 persons were killed in 2002.
The cause of fire in Monday’s incident is yet to be ascertained, but preliminary findings suggest that the fire started in the pantry car — rapidly spreading to three other coaches, as the train approached the Ratlam station.
All air conditioned and non air-conditioned pantry cars have to be rechecked fully including their electrical fittings, maintenance system, fire extinguishers and safety related measures adopted, ministry officials said.
But for the German-designed LHB coaches that are used in the Rajdhani trains, Monday’s incident could have had a much more sinister dimension.
The material used in the lightweight LHB coaches, including curtains, cushions and floorings, are fire retardants.