IIT-KGP to put railways on fast track
KOLKATA: Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur will carry out extensive research on developing cutting edge technologies, including high-speed trains and better security mechanisms, for Indian Railways.
At least 12 areas have been identified by the institute and the railway ministry in which research will be initiated. A Centre for Railway Research (CRR) has been set up by the ministry at the institute, which comprises faculty of at least 10 departments to initiate research in the chosen areas. The railway ministry will pump in an initial amount of Rs 120 crore to get the centre working.
According to the MoU that was recently signed between the ministry and IIT-Kgp, the research would focus on areas such as heavy haul technology, vehicle dynamics, high-speed technologies, energy-efficient traction power supply systems, track research, use of artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance and management, material sciences for railway-related composites, including rubber, polymer and insulation materials, development of integrated/embedded processors for railway applications, applications for access control, security and safety, including biometrics, non-conventional drives and technology, including Maglev, LIM and remote sensing, and measurement of overhead equipment, tracks and signals.
The maximum on-track speed in India has been 130 kmph. Now, the ministry wants Indian trains to enter the high-speed’ zone by achieving the global standard of 260 kmph. “We are indeed looking at high-speed trains. This doesn’t mean designing only the train and the engine, but also tracks that will support the such trains. So, while a lot of stress would be laid on vehicle dynamics (designing trains that are stable and do not vibrate despite the high speed), a significant portion of the research would focus on developing fracture-proof tracks and sensing equipment that would diagnose failures on time. Withstanding the load of high-speed trains is not easy and would mean extensive relaying of tracks,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, a faculty member of the electrical engineering department who is also a spokesperson for CRR. Magnetic levitation and linear electric motion will also constitute an important part of the research.
Blasts triggered by insurgents by planting explosives on tracks or inside compartments is another cause for concern. The institute has been asked to develop remote-sensing equipment that would preempt such occurrences. “We have been asked to include biometrics while developing the security aspects, making impersonation impossible. Again, remote sensing of track and signal conditions would help provide information on impending dangers and preventing accidents,” explained Mukherjee.
CRR will offer PhD programmes in research areas related to the railways. It will also involve IIT BTech and MTech students in research projects and offer course electives related to railway technology. Railway officers will be sent on deputation to CRR to participate in R&D projects and training programmes.