Rescinding its earlier decision, the Railways will now push for only an 850 km section between Mathura and Vadodara to be equipped with a modern signalling system at an estimated cost of about Rs 2,000 crore.
The proposal to install an automatic train protection (ATP) system — the state-of-the-art European Train Controlling System (ETCS) Level-II — is being firmed up and will shortly be sent for cabinet approval.
The system prevents the collision of two trains on the same track and also updates loco pilots on the condition of signals ahead even when the visibility is poor due to fog or other reasons.
Once the Mathura-Vadodara section becomes operational, ETCS Level-II will be considered for extension on other sections, depending upon its performance, according to the Railways.
Earlier, the Railways had decided to go for complete automation, including the ETCS level-II, on its entire 60,000 km broad gauge network at an estimated cost of Rs 78,000 crore.
However, the proposal did not find favour with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) due to the high cost and also for the fact that the new system was untested in Indian conditions.
The PMO asked the national transporter in April to carry out extensive trials in a busy section to ascertain its efficacy and then decide on the entire network.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has been vocal in his support of the idea since the automation of the signalling system aims to enhance safety and speed up train movement in a congested network.
In fact, he was in favour of giving the entire contract to one player so as to gain a price advantage on economies of scale.
The ETCS Level-II proposal was lying idle for a while after the PMO’s suggestion in April to opt for the system along a limited section before going full hog.