The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is working on its next wave of technological innovation: trains in which the role of the driver will be minimised. Anuj Dayal, spokesperson, DMRC, doesn’t like to call these trains ‘driverless’ though. “The role of the driver will be limited, so you can call it an ‘automated’ train,” he says. To be functional by the end of this year, these trains will join the league of automated Metro systems across the globe such as the Nuremberg U-Bahn in Germany, Lille Metro in France, SkyTrain in Vancouver and AirTrain JFK in Jamaica, among others.
Developed as part of Delhi Metro’s Phase-III expansion project, the trains will work on the communication-based train control system. The trains will receive an early-morning “wake-up” command from the operations control centre every morning. The lights inside the train will then switch on and the engine will be ignited. There will be an automatic self-check, which will test the train’s technical fitness before it runs through automated washing plants for cleaning. The train will later roll on to platforms. The new coaches will have a wider car body length of 3.2 metres as opposed to the current 2.9 metres. Also, there will be headway improvement (difference between the arrival of two trains at a station) of below 90 seconds.
Initially, the driver will be physically present inside the train. “When we start, the driver would be there, but the level of automation would be high. After one or two years maybe, depending on how passengers behave and how our experience is, we might gradually withdraw the driver. He might then be given the role of a supervisory attendant,” Dayal says, adding that this technology is the latest in the world and only a handful of countries have it currently.
Talking about the manufacturing process, he says, “In all our contracts, we get only certain elements from abroad and the subsequent manufacturing is in India. For Phase-III, the contract is with Bengaluru-based BEML, which is in a JV with a Korean firm. Every foreign firm should have an Indian partner. We want technology transfer to take place.”
When asked about the incident of two automated trains coming face-to-face during the trial run a year back, Dayal says, “The trains were just placed on the tracks… neither the automation, nor the signalling was activated. Somebody was doing shunting, so they just physically touched each other.” Safety will be of paramount importance, asserts Dayal.
The trial runs are still on, but once functional, the trains will run on the Magenta line of the Delhi Metro. It will be opened in phases between Janakpuri (west) and Kalindi Kunj from October to March 2018. The other line—Line 7, Majilis Park to Shiv Vihar—will be opened in phases from December to March 2018. Only the Magenta line will have these trains for now, as it’s very difficult to withdraw the regular services. “Retro-fitting within any active system is very difficult. We don’t have time for it, as we can’t stop services for passengers even for a minute,” says Dayal.