E-W Salt Lake run gets conditional safety nod

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Kolkata: East-West Metro’s first phase of service from Sector V to Salt Lake Stadium got a conditional nod for the launch from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) on Friday, meaning the stretch can be thrown open finally.
CRS, an autonomous body under the ministry of aviation, is the nodal body that deals with safety of rail travel and train operations in the country.
But the CRS sanction entailed quite a few conditions that must be fulfilled before starting the corridor, officials said. Among them, some have been a cause of headache for implementing agency Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) and fulfilling them may delay the commercial run a bit that has already missed several deadlines.
The biggest hurdle is the upgrade of the software, Train Control and Management System (TCMS). Last September, Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corporation installed the crucial microprocessor-based software that would enable Bengal’s first communication-based train control (CBTC) system in the East-West Metro. It is thanks to this software that East-West trains can run at 80kmph. To upgrade the software, KMRC will have to mail and seek Mitshubishi’s help all over again and get their representatives all the way from Tokyo. The software is complex as it enables trains to run between stations automatically with minimum driver intervention. Any slightest change or upgrade required highly skilled software experts, said officials.
The other issue relates to replacement of some of the bearings on the piers that hold the viaduct or the superstructure on which the rail tracks have been laid. The entire 5km stretch of East-West Metro is elevated and the bearings, which support the viaduct, were fitted in 2012. No proper maintenance was carried out even as the section’s commissioning was pushed back time and again. The CRS wants KMRC and Kolkata Metro, which will take over the operations, to conduct joint inspections and find out the health status of the viaduct and the 600-odd bearings and replace them accordingly. An official said, “The CRS may not object to the bearings being replaced even after the section is unveiled. But it will take some time to upgrade the software with the help of Mitshubishi’s experts.”
A senior railway official was, however, happy that the CRS had finally granted the section. “The CRS report mentions some conditions, focusing on the maintenance of the services so that commuters safety is ensured. It talks of specific conditions, such as the software upgrade and safety of the viaduct, which is held by the bearings of the piers.” Another official said conditional clearance would not be effective until the issues pointed out by CRS had been resolved.
The other conditions penned by CRS are minor, according to officials. They include training of staff members. Around 80 workers from Kolkata Metro have been trained to run the section. CRS wants this training to be foolproof for seamless operations of East-West Metro. “Kolkata Metro staff members have been trained quite rigorously, from Banaglore’s Namma Metro and Hyderabad Metro. Their training can be brushed up, but the software upgrade may take some time,” the official said.
On July 23, a CRS team tested different aspects of the route, especially the Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) signaling system, a cutting-edge railway signaling system. Some last-minute glitches surfaced as the state fire service department withheld fire clearances to two of the six stations on the section. The nods came after the CRS inspection. Friday’s letter from the CRS appeared to have simmered all those apprehensions regarding the corridor that will be launched as soon as the conditions are complied with.