The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, has developed a tamper-proof signalling system based on blockchain technology for the Indian railways, embedded with enhanced safety measures. The new system will complement the existing Data Logger, which is considered the Black Box of rolling stock.
This development has come as per a request from the Ministry of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw. The researchers in the Electronic and Electrical Engineering stream are working on a robust system that will facilitate a mechanism to ensure the safety, communication and control of train operations.
According to Professor Aurobindo Routray, blockchain is a system of recording information which is encrypted and cannot be tampered with. The technology is used in cryptocurrency and banking transactions.
“After Mr Vaishnaw sought a proposal on a foolproof signalling system based on blockchain, I am writing the programme along with some colleagues in IIT Kharagpur. Blockchain technology is being utilised in many developing countries, and I think the technology will be very beneficial to Indian Railways as safety of train operations,” he said.
Professor Routray said that the focus was to make the live movement of trains available for Station Masters, Section Controllers, Signal Engineers and all other logs. He also said the new system will enhance data integrity, transparency and security. It would enable secure data sharing among stakeholders and automate processes with smart contracts and create tamper-evident audit trails.
The system will complement the Data Logger System, which was limited by its centralised storage facilities, lack of tampered evident data and limited access control. The new blockchain system would address all these limitations by storing data in a distributed ledger by using cryptography to ensure data integrity and make data accessible to the involved stakeholders.
This will make the new system even more transparent, secure and efficient than the existing system. In addition, Professor Routray said that the blockchain system would provide several benefits, such as increased accountability, safety and efficiency.
Overall, the blockchain would be a significant improvement over the current system. “All the events occurring in the train and control room would be recorded securely, and no one can tamper it or bypass it.”
The proposed blockchain enabled tamper proof signalling system gains significance in the backdrop of the devastating train accident at Bahanaga Bazaar Railway Station of Kharagpur Division in the South Eastern Railway on June 2, 2023, that claimed the lives of 291 passengers and left over 900 others injured.
There are many advantages of using blockchain technology in Railways. All the trains can communicate with each other the problem of train delays will be avoided by smart contracts, With the help of blockchain, accidents can be minimised due to smart management and communication of the trains. It can be used to verify a train driver’s license and authorisation. It will update the status of trains and thus prevent delays.
Using blockchain technologies in railway systems will also ensure that the privacy of sensitive information is protected and that no external entity can gain access to or manipulate the data. Even if manipulation occurs by an expert hacker, blockchain technology updates every time anyone adds and removes information or blocks from the existing chain.
Countries such as China, Australia and Russia have already deployed these systems in their railway transportation systems. With IIT Kharagpur taking the lead and initiative of deploying blockchain technology in Indian Railways, India has joined the league of the nations which have this blockchain system.