In a proactive move to address the peril of train-elephant collisions, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw unveiled ‘Gajraj,’ an indigenous software leveraging optical fiber cable (OFC) and artificial intelligence. Having undergone successful trials in Assam, ‘Gajraj’ is now poised for deployment along 700 km of elephant corridors across various states within the next eight months, involving an estimated expenditure of Rs 181 crore.
Explaining the operational features, Vaishnaw detailed, “Through the integration of AI and OFC, the software activates alerts upon detecting any suspicious activity within a 200-meter radius of the railway tracks. The vibrations produced by elephant movements alongside the tracks cause variations in the optical signals transmitted through the OFC, serving as an early warning of potential threats. The software can discern these signal disruptions, identifying the nature of movement and distinguishing between elephants, other animals, and humans.”
The system’s capabilities extend to determining the type of movement and accurately counting the number of animals present at a specific location. Alerts generated by the ‘Gajraj’ system are promptly transmitted to the locomotive pilot, control room personnel, and the section station master upon detecting any movement in the vicinity.
Emphasizing the urgency of this initiative, Minister Vaishnaw referenced data from the Railway Ministry, revealing 45 elephant fatalities resulting from train accidents over the past three years. A recent tragic incident in Alipurduar district, West Bengal, saw the lives of three elephants, including a mother and her two calves, lost in a collision with a goods train.
The Railway Minister outlined plans to implement the AI-powered ‘Gajraj’ system in states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Kerala, specific areas of Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu.
Addressing concerns about reduced train operations post-Covid, Vaishnaw clarified that railway services resumed in December 2021 and normalized by July 2022. Contrary to speculations, he highlighted an increase in daily train services, with the current operation of 10,754 trains, an increment of 568 compared to pre-Covid levels. Additionally, he announced ambitious plans for expanding the railway network, aiming to surpass the previous year’s achievement of adding 5,243 km of new railway tracks.