Innovation: ATES – The Safety Machine

By Dr Deepak Tripathi,Chief Mechanical Engineer, Konkan Railway Corporation Limited

Today, I am overwhelmed with excitement on the tweet from our Hon’ble Railway Minister, Shri Piyush Goyal ji, appreciating Automated Train Examination System (ATES) as an indigenously developed solution under Make in India to improve train safety.

ATES, or The Safety Machine as named in one of the newspapers, has generated tremendous hope and enthusiasm that we can change things and create innovative solutions to improve safety in Railways, while also bringing about a paradigm shift in the quality and productivity of inspection and maintenance processes.

The confidence that this machine is generating is based on the results produced so far with two installations at Ratnagiri and Verna in Konkan Railway and three more commissioned recently at Nagpur in Central Railway and Surat in Western Railway.

To me, in the core of this lies the story of perseverance, presumption, value innovation, principles-based technology development, support of top management, effective collaboration of value chain partners and tireless efforts of the team.

The need for this system was felt due the serious safety threats faced Indian Railways from running rolling stock with defects like Brake Binding, Hot Axle and faulty Under-gear in ever increasing speed and traffic density. Manual rolling in examination, being done across Indian Railways for both passenger and goods trains has been highly subjective, unreliable, non-repeatable and challenging when dealing with adverse weather and visibility conditions compounded with simultaneous multiple trains to be examined instantly. Further, no logging of data further limits scope for review and condition monitoring coupled with limited defect identification and response time for rectification.

While working in Indian Railways for many years, finding a solution to this problem was always in the back of the mind, however it was in 2015 when enabling forces could be brought together and we started with a small pilot project at Ratnagiri station in Konkan Railway. After several prolonged trials and upgradations carried out over three years, we could now develop a system, which is indigenous, robust, customized for Indian Railways, cost effective and with long term sustainability and possibilities of need based future upgradations

ATES, a step towards condition monitoring/predictive maintenance regime, exploits technology in the age of digital revolution and mandates use of tools like IoT, data analytics and cloud computing in train operation and safety. And, I believe that this little sapling growing on firm roots is sure to become a big tree with many more such solutions on the cards.

About ATES

This system named as ‘Automated Train Examination System (KR-ATES)’ suits to specific requirement of Indian Railways for monitoring the Axle Box temperature to check Hot Axle cases, Wheel Temperature to check brake binding & high-speed videography to check broken/hanging parts and to support manual Rolling in/Out Examination.

ATES has three modular components

MODULE 1- Hot Axle Detector; MODULE 2- Hot Wheel Detector MODULE3 – Videography Unit

The system is used to raise immediate alerts before the approach of train to a major station/yard to avoid unplanned detachments and fatal accidents, also used as data logger for safety parameters as well as supports predictive maintenance of captive stocks. 

The system – fitted on the main line before freight yards and rolling in examination points/ coaching depots – provides a reliable automated support to the existing manual process of Rolling In Examination being done at major stations and at entry points of freight maintenance depots. This system has potential to become an important component of SMART YARD being envisaged by Indian Railways.

The first version was installed at Ratnagiri Station of KRCL in 2015. The next improved version was installed at Verna Station in 2017. These two units have detected more than 200 cases of brake binding, hot axle and undergear defects.

Konkan Railway has also undertaken a pilot project at Ajni Yard of Indian Railways with two ATES installations to cover Ajni Yard and Nagpur Station from Mumbai end. The systems have been successfully installed in the month of December 2018.  

This system was invented and developed by Dr Deepak Tripathi, Chief Mechanical Engineer, Konkan Railway Corporation Limited with inhouse team and local vendors. 

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