What is Kavach? This Indian Made System Could Have Prevented Kanchanjunga Express Accident

Kavach is an automatic train protection (ATP) system developed in-house by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RSCO) in collaboration with three Indian enterprises.

West Bengal witnessed a tragic train accident in West Bengal’s Darjeeling District, where approximately 9 people lost their lives, and above 50 people were injured. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerejee on the tragedy said, “They (Railway Ministry) don’t care about passenger amenities…”

But what is Kavach that can help trains prevent accidents?

Kavach – an Indian-made system that is known to help in preventing accidents when trains are traveling on the same line. However, this system was not available on the tracks in the Rangapani railway tracks. The accident occurred after a goods train rammed the Kolkata-bound Kanchanjunga Express from behind.

Kavach is an automatic train protection (ATP) system developed in-house by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RSCO) in collaboration with three Indian enterprises. The security system not only limits train speed, but it also assists locomotive drivers in avoiding ignoring danger signs and ensuring that trains run safely, particularly in low-visibility conditions.

Amid the chaos, an old video of the Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw goes viral where he is seen explaining the Kavach system that is yet to be installed on the rail tracks.

Kavach is currently deployed over more than 1,500 kilometers of railroads. The Centre had planned to bring 2,000 kilometers of rail network under Kavach in 2022-23, with the goal of covering around 34,000 kilometers of rail network. The Indian railway system is more than 1 lakh kilometers long.

How does it work?

Kavach controls train speed by automatically braking if the driver fails to apply the brakes on time. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are placed on tracks and at station yard and signals for identifying the tracks and locating the train and its direction. When the system is activated, all trains within 5 km will stop to let the train on an adjacent track to pass safely.

On Board Display of Signal Aspect (OBDSA) helps the loco pilots view the signals even when the visibility is low due to bad weather. Usually, loco pilots have to look out of the window to spot the signals. The safety system sends a signal to a loco pilot when approaching a ‘red signal’ and applies automatic brakes if necessary to prevent overshooting the signal.

In 2022, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said he had personally tested the safety system. “Rear-end collision testing is successful. Kavach automatically stopped the locomotive before 380 m of other locomotive at the front,” he said in a post on X.