Wednesday, 25 July 2018


Indian Railway Accidents - MyViewsMyDrishti

In many  recent Train accidents, one thing is common and nobody is commenting on it. That is Emergency brakes. After all, as the name suggests, Emergency brakes are supposed to be applied in emergencies only. Many train disasters were attributed to Emergency brakes on Indian Railways which were either the solely responsible for train accidents or as a result of emergency due to unforeseen circumstances. The train drivers are supposed to apply Emergency brakes due to either any obstruction on track like fallen tree, cattle, vehicle or boulders or a security threat like bombs. The other reasons may be any discontinuity in track/bridges or jumping the Banner flags, hand signals or detonators. 

Some of the recent disasters are:- 

A. On 10th Feb 2017, Indore Patna express derailed near Pukhrayan, UP killing about 150 people and injuring over 180 people, supposedly on account of rail fracture and application of Emergency brakes. 

B. On 20th Aug 2017, Utkal express derailed near Khatauli UP,killing about 40 people and injuring about 170 people supposedly on account of Emergency brakes by train driver on seeing a track discontinuity  with a rumour that Train driver neglected the signals. On 21st March 2015, Dehradun Varanasi Janta Express derailed at Bachhrawan near Lucknow, killing about 50 people and injuring about 200 people, supposedly on account of signal overshoot and Emergency brakes.
On seeing any problem on track, unexpected coach behavior or any other problems, the very first reaction of train driver is to stop the train either by normal brakes or mostly by applying the Emergency brakes. Why a train derails and coaches capsized and turtle by applying the Emergency brakes. The observation of so called Indian Railways Experts (Though there is none) was noteworthy of Emergency brakes in the case of Howrah Kalka mail accident near Kanpur that Emergency brakes alone do not cause a derailment. 

The purpose of Emergency brakes is important in two conditions viz, A.-for stopping the train just short of any danger to the train and B.-Emergency brakes in case of any discontinuity in track and train coaches derails on account of derailment of either engine or with some coaches. The so called Indian Railway Experts mix up the two issues, derailment or stopping of the train. The moot question is that why a train does not come to a stop if there is any application of Emergency brakes. The argument that even the Engine derails, only just after few coaches are affected due to misalignment of buffers, but why other coaches do not come to a complete stoppage in case of Emergency brakes.

Having established the need of Emergency brakes in emergencies, let us analyse some technical aspects of Emergency brakes. Previously the trains used to have vacuum brakes connected to Train engine with all coaches by a single pipe. As speeds increased, a need was felt for quick application and quick release brake system. On this test, vacuum brake system being a passive system failed. Any leaks of vacuum was not self corrective. To overcome all these problems, twin pipe air pressure brake system was introduced.

Practically all trains on Indian Railways, are now having air brakes with twin pipe connecting Engine with all the coaches. This is an active system where any leak or drop of pressure even due to Accident Chain pulling by any passenger on board,is augmented automatically by Engine mounted air pumps except in case of uncoupling of coaches, or derailments.These brake pipes are maintaining a positive pressure of 5.0 Kg/sqcm. Any leaks in the braking system beyond a certain limits, this drop shall be made up by Engine mounted air compressor. In any case, certain leakage/drop of air pressure cannot be avoided and it has been stipulated that in Engine, the air pressure shall be 5.0 Kg/sqcm while in rear most coaches this shall not be less than 4.8 Kg/sqcm. These twin pipes are connected to twin air brake cylinders on each coach which activate brake rigging and in turn apply brakes on wheel treads. Earlier brake shoes used to be of cast iron but Indian Railways gradually switched to Composite brake blocks for effective braking and avoiding the wheel damage.
The proper connectivity of all brake cylinders are checked at originating station only and then there is no method when to check the brake power efficiency in intermediate stations. The test which is called as Brake continuity test in Indian Railways in the case of 

(a)- Originating station 
(b)- When a fresh or additional locomotives is attached as a power source 
(c)- Whenever any vehicle is detached or attached 
(d)- When brake pipe is disconnected to rectify any defect. 

The normally adopted method is; In loco complete air pressure is released and Guard of last coach is also asked to release the air pressure. When both dials show the zero, a completely braked train, the air compressor is started in loco and brought to a pressure level of 5.0 kg/sqcm and at that point of time Guard of last coach is asked by Loco driver to indicate his dial reading which should not be less than 4.8 Kg/sqcm i e only 0.2 kg/sqcm air pressure drop is permitted. But what happens between originating station and last station, nobody is bothered and passengers think that everything is OK.
The Emergency braking distance (EBD) which is specified and is taken into consideration while designing the Locomotives along with all safety features. Interestingly this specified EBD is the result of various calculations. Indian Railways does not carry out the trials of EBD in the fear that trial train itself may derail. The actual EBD is normally decided and is theoretically calculated based on loco features. But it must be mentioned here that EBD is a derivative of loco features plus trailing loads of coaches plus speed and braking efficiency. This technology of calculating the  EBD is simply not available with Indian Railways. The EBD which is specified is either loco EBD or based on observations and gumptions.
The experience of author is that the brake continuity test is seldom done more so on change of Loco simply to observe and maintain the punctuality of the passenger train. The brake continuity test is mechanically recorded in Brake Power certificate  register.

Indian Railways has sound system that Railway officers are travelling in Locos which is called Footplate inspections which reminds the old steam locos which were having foot plate. The modern Electric/Diesel engines do not have any foot plate. These officers are presumed to check the brake power continuity test recordings from registers maintained in Locos. Here the question of departmentalism comes into system. Since diesel locos and its drivers are maintained by Mechanical deptt while Electric engines and its drivers are maintained by Electrical deptt. The features and weakness of locos are kept closely guarded secrets. Indian Railways have 4 technical deptt and 9 non technical deptts. Now footplate inspection is specified for all deptt officers. Firstly non technical deptt officers are also expected to know the loco features and brake power continuity test certification which is too much expectation. Even technical deptt officers are not aware of the procedures. The concerned deptt is seldom interested to tell other deptt officers their loco technology and its safety features. Therefore this test has become paper exercise only and there is no system by which they could check up whether brake power test has been done or not.
In another case, the brake power test has been prescribed of all passenger trains at the starting station only, in which the train is brought to max permissible speed and the normal brakes are applied to check the brake power efficiency. This test is seldom done by drivers who are mostly reluctant. Most of the officers themselves are not aware of this test. Also this test is prescribed at starting station only and what happens in between station is left to providence on GOD's mercy. Therefore there is always a confusion of the brake power efficiency which is best left to the experience of driver only.

In existing braking system all brake cylinders are expected to function and no leeway has been given for ineffective brake cylinders. There is no foolproof  correlative statement at least theoretically that in case Guard finds a min reading of 4.8 Kg/sqcm in the last coach, all brake cylinders are effective. Again what happens to brake cylinders in between, no test is available and is presumed OK on the basis of experience only.

The confusions are omnipotent on braking distance and braking time and more so there is utter confusion and gesticulation about Emergency braking distances and Emergency braking time. There is complete intellectual bankruptcy of calculating the Emergency braking distances so the design of most of the safety features becomes a big question mark. This darkness is pushed under the carpet conveniently and comfortably by Indian Railways, since all technical aspects are not told to travelling public and gullible Indian Railway Travellers who has to pay the price from their and their family member lives. Certainly the lives on wheels has become a dangerous proposition.


  1. What He has written is utter nonsense. He is like terrorists who justify everything in name of GOD like killing humanity , similarly he seems to be disgruntled lot.I m sure his qualification will be deepest corrupt civil engineer of railways. Railways have many such civil engineers who are extremely corrupt that u can't find in india otherwise except in police.

  2. This article has very little truth in it.Its a naive piece of writing to say the least.Emergency Braking is never reason for any accident/derailment.It is a safety feature to prevent such incidents.The incident in Pokhrayan was attributed to old rolling stock condition and the one in khatauli was due to incomplete track maintenence work during the time of train operation.None of the cases is related to emergency braking.