Seeking to restrict casualties and ensure safety of passengers in railway accidents, government is planning shock absorbent and anti-climbing coaches that would reduce the impact of collisions and keep them from piling atop one another.
The design of such a 'crashworthy' coach, having certain features at its ends for absorbing a part of the impact energy in the event of a collision, has been developed, Railway Ministry sources said.
"This design not only enhances the energy absorbed at the collision interface but also enables the bulk of the remaining energy to be transferred to the next coach interface in the train formation so that a significant amount of energy of impact is absorbed, enhancing passenger safety," a source said.
The design is based on the use of a 'tight-lock centre buffer coupler' with anti-climbing devices so that in the event of a collision, coaches do not pile on top of each other, reducing the chances of injury and loss of human life, they said.
Based on the intial design, one rake has been manufactured and put to service between Amritsar, Barauni and Saharsa, they said. This rake consists mainly of IInd class coaches.
Designs for other types of coaches are expected to be finalised in the next few months. More rakes will be provided with these features progressively, they said.
There have been close to 500 train accidents during the year 2004-05 and 2005-06 at various places.
Asked whether the railways is also making efforts to find new designs for stations across the country, the sources said development and redesigning of stations is a continuous process and is carried out depending upon traffic and other requirements.
Improvements in design are planned in house as also with the help of consultants who are normally engaged through bidding process where institutions like the National Institute of Design could also participate.
Meanwhile, in pursuance of implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full participation) Act, 1995, Railways have introduced several short-term facilities at 300 'A' and some 'B' category stations, Railway Ministry sources said.
The seven facilties provided at 'A' category stations include standard ramps for barrier-free entry, earmarking parking lots for vehicles used by disabled persons, non-slippery walkways, signage, toilets, water taps and help booths.
Regarding inter-platform connectivity, they said trolley paths have been provided at the end of platforms of important stations which have been authorised for use by differently abled people on wheelchairs.
Indian Railways is manufacturing certain coaches, which have a separate compartment specially designed for wheelchair-borne passengers, they said.
These compartments have facilities like wider doorway, aisle and knee space to permit easy movement of wheelchairs, wider berths, toilets adapted to the needs of such passengers, and arrangements for securing their chairs during the journey.
Some such disabled-friendly coaches are already in service, the Railway Ministry sources said, adding that it has been decided to provide one such coach in every Mail and Express train during the next two years.
Measures are also being taken to reduce accidents at unmanned level crossings, derailments and accidents from fire include timely replacement of overaged assets, adoption of suitable technologies for upgradation and maintenance of track, sources said.
Rolling stock, signalling and interlocking systems, safety drives and inspections at regular intervals to monitor and educate staff for observance of safe practices, and social awareness programmes to educate road users are some other devices.
They also dismissed suggestions that Railways have surrendered a large number of posts belonging to the safety category and said the overall strength of such categories increased between 2001 and 2006 by about 30 per cent.
Posts belonging to such categories have been surrendered in Vijaywada Division due to introduction of panel interlocking system, work-study and other technological inputs.
While monitoring the staff strength, safety of train operation is always emphasised so that the desired quality of output is achieved by employing optimum number of staff.
Sanctioned strength is reviewed regularly by surrendering posts due to changing work practices and introduction of new technology and posts are also created as and when required against new assets and new services, they said.