Want more suburban trains per hour on the city's rail network? It could happen simply by changing the signalling system.
MTR Hong Kong, which is advising Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation, has suggested that simply changing signaling systems will help increase the frequency of suburban trains by as much as 30 per cent.
Currently, the city's suburban rail system uses the fixed block system of signaling, which consists of signals planted on the tracks. During peak hours, 17 trains ply per hour.
MTR Hong Kong's report, titled "Communication-based Train Control" says that number can increase to 22 trains per hour if the signaling system is changed to the moving block system, in which signal poles can be removed and signals relayed directly to a motorman's cabin by way of radio.
The current gap between two trains is around 3.5 minutes — with the new system, that can be changed to 90 seconds.
The system works more like that on a highway, where a driver can decide how close he or she wants to take the car. For trains, the system would be similar, but an automatic braking system will kick in if a motorman crosses the safety line.
But to make this system foolproof, all level crossings and hurdles on tracks will have to be removed.
The signaling change is part of the third phase of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), a three-phase project to upgrade the city's rail and road infrastructure.
The Rs 4,000-crore Phase 1, which began in 2004, now delayed by two years, is 70 per cent complete and expected to end by December 2010. Work on the Rs 5,300-crore Phase 2, also delayed by two years, is to be completed by 2014.
Under MUTP, the city will get 72 new 12-car trains, and the Central line from Thane to CST will be converted from direct current to alternate current, considered to be a more power-efficient solution.
It will also see the addition of two dedicated corridors for outstation trains, and the extension of the Harbour line up to Goregaon.