In this age of accurate geo-location and real time information through GPS (global positioning system), satellites have become ubiquitous as eyes high up in the sky. Whether for remote sensing of resources or predicting weather, maintaining telecom links or keeping a lookout for enemy planes and missiles, satellites are playing a wide array of roles. And now satellites will warn people near unmanned level crossings of approaching trains. Indian Railways has joined hands with ISRO to adopt a satellite-based system under which integrated circuit (IC) chips are being installed in train locomotives and unmanned level crossing gates. When a train is 500 metres away from such a level crossing, a hooter will begin sounding the alarm and will get progressively louder as the train nears. Surely, this is a safety measure that needs be welcomed, considering that the highest number of rail accidents (40%) occur at such crossings. An RTI query last year revealed that 613 lives were lost in such crossings from 2011-12 to 2015-16. Of course, the number of casualties has been coming down and the Railways have targeted completely elimiting unmanned level crossings in the next 2-3 years. Presently, hooters are being installed at unmanned level crossings on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Guwahati routes. After such crossings are elimited in due course, the hooters would be shifted to manned level crossings as an added safety alarm. In addition, satellites will also help the Railways keep track of train movements on real-time basis. While bullet trains hog the headlines, it is such incremental tech solutions to improve passenger safety that will help improve the image of the Railways.
Satellites for Railways