Science And Technology Current Affairs - Current Affairs Today - Page 40

Science and Technology

“Diamond Quadrilateral” for High-Speed Rail

The ruling BJP promised in the election manifestos for 2014 Lok Sabha election, introduction of High-Speed Rail (HSR) in the country. It pledged to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project – connecting four major cities of India located in four edges of the country.

If implemented properly, the ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ HSR project has the potential to dramatically transform India much like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government’s ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ highway project.

Current Status:

Let us compare speed of trains in China with that in India. The distance between Shanghai Hongqiao and Beijing South railway stations is 1318 kilometers; the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai Central railway stations is 1380 kilometers. While the fastest train (several of them) between the former pair of stations takes exactly 4 hours and 48 minutes, the time taken by the fastest train between the latter pair of stations takes 16 hours and 5 minutes, three times longer.

Although India has one of the largest rail networks in the world, it does not have any HSR rail tracks capable of supporting speeds of 200 km/h (124 mph) or more. High-speed corridors have been proposed but not executed.

Now, a standardization body will examine different options available and provide a common standard to be emulated in implementation across India. Though HSR is still under discussion with no official long-term implementation plan announced, but first railway lines are expected to become operational between 2030 and 2035.

Right now, India is concentrating on high-speed railway track rather than high-speed rail, so that Indian rails can run faster on the current tracks, with a maximum speed at around 160 to 200 km/h; clocking average of 130 km/h.

Indian Railways’ approach to High Speed

Indian Railways’ will exercise an approach of incremental improvement to high-speed on current conventional lines for up to 160 km/h, with a foresight of speed above 200 km/h on new tracks with state-of-the-art technology, such as Shinkansen/TGV/etc. While they do not define high-speed, Indian Railways’ approach matches the high-speed definitions of the Trans-European high-speed rail network, for upgraded lines and new lines built for high-speed.

Dedicate tracks to passenger trains

Separate corridors for freight trains will be built which will provide dedicates tracks on existing trunk lines to passenger trains. Separate tracks will also be constructed for busy suburban traffic in Mumbai and other cities where traffic is equally intense. Without slower freight and suburban traffic, fast-express trains can run at the speed limit of rolling stock, the railway track or railroad switch, whichever is lowest among those that apply.

Track-Upgrade for 250–300 km/h

The dedicated passenger tracks will be upgraded with heavier rails, and will build the tracks to a close tolerance geometry fit for 250–300 km/h. Automation will be used for maintenance and inspection of high-speed tracks. Design, manufacture and deploy railroad switches, with thick web construction and movable crossings that permit 50 km/h to alleviate this obstruction to speed.

Upgrade locomotives and coaches

The train coaches will be improved to support 160 km/h, with stainless steel bodies and crash-worthy designs, incorporating passenger and crew protection, and fire-retardant materials. Electro-pneumatic brake systems will be fitted with coaches to enhance safe operations at 160–200 km/h.

DRDO successfully test-fired Akash supersonic missiles

Akash air defence missiles were test-fired successfully by Defence Research and Developmet Organization (DRDO) off the coast of Balasore in Odisha. Three Akash missiles were fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur (Odisha), on tow body target of Lakshya Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA) moving at “low altitude for boundary” and ripple mode missions. The missiles were successfully guided by multi-function phased array radar developed by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, a DRDO Lab and produced by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL).

RhoDIS: DNA-based tool to probe poaching

Assam government is considering introducing RhoDIS (Rhino DNA Indexing System), a DNA-based forensic tool to probe and prosecute suspects involved cases of rhino poaching. The tool will be used in the collection of each individual rhino’s unique DNA profile and developing a database which can be referenced when producing legal evidence in cases of rhino poaching.

It has been observed that poachers often go scot-free for want of irrefutable evidence. Poachers killed and dehorned 41 rhinos in Assam and about 1,000 rhinos in South Africa in 2013.  In 2014, as many as 16 rhinos have been killed in Kaziranga, Assam. The Assam government is also mulling over the option of establishing fast-track courts to conduct speedy trials against poachers. The RhODIS would help provide concrete evidence, as required for conviction in poaching cases.