Posing risks to passenger lives, the Railways continue to use the overage and outdated Railway Electric (RE) cables to operate signaling systems.
The task of replacing these with the modern Quad-6 has remained painfully slow, with just 27 of the total of 64 block sections having been commissioned. “The condition of the RE cable and overhead alignment have deteriorated beyond maintainable levels and working on this has become hazardous”, says an internal document accessed by HT.
The cable replacement scheme was taken up as a pilot project in 2003 in the North Central Railway (NCR) zone on India’s busiest section from Jhansi to Banda on the important “Golden Quadrilateral” route.
With the pilot scheme having remained a non-starter, a huge question mark has come to hang over plans to replicate the scheme across the country’s rail network of approximately 64,000 route kilometers.
A big chunk of rail accidents in past years have been caused because of cable and signaling failures. In sections where the erstwhile Yugoslavia-made RE cables have completed their life of 30 years, train operations have become more risky. RE cables are no longer being manufactured and spares for these are unavailable in the market, officials said.
“We are constrained to use the old RE cables, as the new cable systems have not been completed or handed over. Signaling failures have alarmingly increased because of the poor insulation of old cables and train operations have been adversely impacted”, said Manmohan Garhwal, the NCR Chief Technical and Signaling Engineer (CTSE).
Officials of the Indian Railways Project Management Unit (IRPMU) –the implementing agency – say that two-thirds of the cable replacement work had been completed and handed over to open line department. But the Railways have been unable to migrate to the upgraded system because of “deficiencies” in execution work, official documents show.
Despite repeated attempts to contact him, NCR general manager Pradeep Kumar remained unavailable for comments.