Being part of the most preferred and economical mode of transport, communication is pivotal in the Rail Industry. Telecommunication being a fast-developing field has been making the work practices more convenient for employees and journey of a passenger more comfortable progressively.
South Western Railway has witnessed quite a distinct transformation in its communication means from its birth. It has strived hard to incorporate technology advancements within the Railway system to improve the system of working adding to the efficiency. Comprising of three divisions – Hubballi, Bengaluru and Mysuru, South Western Railway provides connectivity between major IT Centres, Heritage Sites, Tourist Places, and Freight Business Locations etc.
South Western Railway covers 3522 Route Km of Broad Gauge line which is well connected by multiple means of communication as on date. The various modes employed to establish connectivity between/within stations in the jurisdiction and with other Railway Zones are discussed thenceforward.
Media and Route Diversity
Overhead ACSR Lines were the connecting medium over which critical circuits like Block Circuits, Section Control, Emergency Control & LC Gates were connected. The same circuits were then transferred to underground Quad cable that alleviated most of the reliability issues and other inconveniences of overhead lines. The entire zone is connected with underground 6 quad cable amounting to 3488 route Km.
Optic fiber cables brought in more efficient and reliable communication mode decreasing the frequent need for maintenance. With the use of Optic media more sophisticated equipments like the STM-1, STM-4 and STM-16 were introduced to the working system, exponentially increasing the channel capacity for multiple circuit connectivity between stations for continued service.
As on date, about 84% of the zone’s route Km that amounts to 2962 Km, is laid with OFC for connectivity of crucial circuits like train control, STD circuits (PRI), Passenger reservation and unreserved ticketing system channels, video surveillance, freight operation information system, inter railway network links etc.
Train Traffic Communication
For punctual and efficient running of trains, total track area under each division’s jurisdiction is divided into smaller control sections where train movements are monitored and controlled and overall traffic movement is regulated. This sectional control communication is provided to all stations, connecting them to Divisional Headquarters.
Emergency Control Communication is another most critical means of communication provided at every kilometer along the total track distance with the Divisional Headquarters. This form of communication is essential at times of emergencies to alert the Headquarters.
Control communication saw a phenomenal change with the advent of Optic fiber technology increasing the reliability and efficiency compared to Quad Cable. However, Emergency control is still continuing on 6 quad cables. There has been a transition in the control phones utilised by the controllers and station masters from the STC key technology to DTMF.
The most drastic advancements have been witnessed in the sector of passenger amenities. During the formation of the zone, the passenger amenities included manual announcements, mechanical clocks, conventional display boards for coach guidance, train indication including single line and 5 line boards.
At present, South Western Railway offers its passengers the most sophisticated services to make their travel experience more comfortable right from the purchase of tickets to alighting the train at the destination station.
The main and primary amenity provided at a station is a clock. Mechanical clocks have now been replaced by digital clocks synchronised with GPS. So far 124 Stations out of 297 have been provided with GPS based Double-side Digital Clocks. Public Announcement which was earlier performed manually has been replaced by microprocessor based Digital Passenger Announcement System (DPAS) and PC based announcement systems. 101 Stations have been provided with Auto Announcement System in SW Railway.
The Integrated Passenger Information System installed at many important stations combines public announcement system, Train Arrival/Departure Display Boards and Coach Guidance Display Boards on a single system. Important stations have been provided with true colour display boards replacing the conventional ones. Electronic Train Reservation Charts are also provided at important stations. Divisional Train Enquiry System with touch screen interface is available at major stations for providing information regarding passenger queries. 32 Stations are provided with Coach Guidance Boards and 35 stations are provided with Train Indication Boards out of 34 stations of Class A1, A & B of SW Railway.
Video surveillance system has been introduced to assist the Security Department at multiple strategic locations at important stations. Integrated Security System has been made functional over South Western Railway at Bengaluru, Yeshvantpur and Mysuru with connectivity to Divisional Railway Manager/ Additional Divisional Railway Manager and Chief Health Inspector to monitor cleanliness of platforms through ISS cameras.
VHF Radio Mobile Communication
VHF Base Station of 25W and Walkie Talkies of 5W are utilized for wireless communication for operation and maintenance functions including communication between Driver-Guard, Stations, RPF and other departments. VHF communication is also critical at Accident spots for relief and restoration arrangements. There are 348 No’s of 25 Watt VHF Base Station sets & 5544 No’s of 5 Watt Walkie Talkie sets available over South Western Railway.
Data Networks of South Western Railways
Several applications like Passenger Reservation System(PRS), Unreserved Ticketing System(UTS), National Train Enquiry System(NTES), Freight Operations Information System(FOIS), Coaching Operations Information System(COIS) etc allow passengers/customers to avail services offered by Railways.
312 UTS/PRS Locations, 84 FOIS Locations, 32 Railnet Locations, 40 Exchange Locations, 3 NGN Locations and 3 Hotlines are networked across the entire stretch of South Western Railways with multiple redundant paths to ensure uninterrupted services and better deliverance.