Warning system not utilised

Published Dec 30, 2013, 2:09 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:34 am IST
As fire mishaps in trains rise, railway officials wait for RDSO’s nod.
File picture of the AC coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express that caught fire on Saturday
 File picture of the AC coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express that caught fire on Saturday

Visakhapatnam: Though the East Coast Railways has found the ‘Very Early Warning Smoke Detection System’ (VEWSD), that it had implemented in the zone on a trial basis in an AC coach, effective enough, it is waiting for a nod from the Research Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO) before the system is introduced in other trains.

This wait for the RDSO’s nod has left the railway authorities facing severe criticism from passengers, who say that the authorities have not realised the severity of the situation.


The passengers’ criticism, and concern, is understandable, given the fact that there has been an increase in the number of fire mishaps in running trains.

Despite the recent incidents at Nellore and Puttaparthi, in which tens of people were charred to death, the railway authorities have not accelerated the process to implement the VEWSD across the country. The Indian Railways had introduced the system on a trial basis on the Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani Express.

According to officials, during the trial period, two actual fire incidences were detected by the system in two coaches and the timely alert saved loss of life and property.


The authorities had decided to test the system for 18 months and had installed it in one of the 18 coaches of the train. They also planned to install it in more rake in the current year.

However, this was not to be since the RDSO has to approve the system before it can be extended to other trains. The system boasts of four alarm levels— Alert, Action, Fire-1 and Fire-2.

The system alerts the passengers during the initial stages, thus giving them time to shift to safety. It also ensures that passenger can safely get off the train without much confusion.


Based on the feedback received, the RDSO improved on the system and interfaced it with the braking system.

This effectively means that in case of Fire-2 alarm, the brakes get activated and the train stops, even before the hooter is sounded.

Seeing the efficacy of the system, the Rail Coach Factory had recently installed it on one more rake of LHB Rajdhani dispatched to Northern Railway, for travel between New Delhi and Ranchi.

“Though the East Coast Railways tested and appreciated the effectiveness of the warning system, it cannot implement in its own zone due to technical constraints. For instance, the Electric Loco Shed at Visakhapatnam designed the four-beam headlight system and the IR directed all zones to adopt it. Why can’t it be done in case of the valuable warning system if it is really worthy?” wondered a senior official of the ECoR.


“The system is suitable for a controlled environment such as AC coaches. But, if fire breaks out in sleeper coaches, the system will not work. It has to be improved further,” said a senior technical official.

Location: Andhra Pradesh