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Automatic block signalling in Ernakulam-Poonkunnam corridor awaiting sanction

The system is expected to facilitate operation of more trains

Even as the proposal to lay a third track in the 107-km Ernakulam-Shoranur rail corridor is awaiting final sanction from the Railways, officials are pinning hopes on introducing automatic block signalling in the Ernakulam-Poonkunnam (in Thrissur) corridor as an interim measure to enhance the capacity of the existing double track on the stretch.

It is expected to be followed by the extension of the system to the Poonkunnam-Shoranur corridor, since track utilisation on the Ernakulam-Shoranur route is over 120% due to reliance on the conventional block signalling system, it is learnt.

It is hoped that the Railways will sanction the roll-out of automatic block signalling in the sector in the impending budget in February. The project has been awaiting approval from the Railway Board. It will help operate more than double the number of trains in the corridor, thereby lessening detention of trains, especially south of Ernakulam and north of Poonkunnam, sources said.

Although automatic block signalling will augment density of trains within a section, their speed will remain much the same, unless engineering changes are made to improve tracks, or a third track is laid. There has already been a marginal improvement in speed during the past two years in most parts of the Thiruvananthapuram Division after ‘temporary cautions‘ on speed were withdrawn.

The doubling of the Ernakulam-Ambalapuzha corridor and improving terminal facility at Nemom and Kochuveli will catalyse the introduction of automatic block signalling south of Ernakulam too, they said.

Citing an example, an official said there were three block sections in the 16-km Ernakulam-Aluva corridor, where only three trains can operate at a time at present. This can go up to one train operating every kilometre, if the new signal system is introduced.

There will be no need to alter any civil or electrical components of the rail network to usher in automatic block signalling. At present, a train has to reach the next station for the subsequent train to get the green signal. Once automatic signals are introduced, an interlocked cable network will provide feedback and change signals once a train crosses a signal point, much like in a suburban-rail network, the sources said.

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