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The "Inter signal Distances in ground based Automatic Signalling territories" has always been a subject of great interestto the Railwaymentfrom all the departments. Howeverso far nobody knows for sure, any systematic guidelines in the matter. On the face of it, it appears that you should provide ore signals if you want a better frequency of service, which is absolutely true. However most people tend to over simplify the matter by designing the inter signal spacing by multiplying the distance traveled by a train (at its normal speed) in a given time, with the time interval at which we want to run the trains one after the other. The novice feels confident in declaring his views, whereas an expert reserves his opinion. In actual practice, the "Inter Signal Spacing" depends on many factors like maximum permissible speed of trains, normal speed of trains, distance between two stations, permanent speed restrictions, braking and accelerations characteristics of the rolling stocks, types of rolling stocks running on the section etc apart from the desired frequency of service. Here I've attempted to define a certain number of guidelines for arriving at the best possible Inter Signal Distances, in various situations. FREQUENCYOF SERVICES
Irrespective of the Inter signal distances the frequency of train services can not be increased beyond a certain limit for a given type of rolling stock, train length, track structure, halting time and requirement of Signal overlap. (Safety margin/adequate distance beyond the next signal). MINIMUM DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO TRAINS :

When trains are run one after the other on the same line, we will have to keep a minimum distance between them to run them at their booked speed. This safe minimum distance can be arrived at as follows:(We will confine our discussions to multiple aspect Colour Light signaling only as other types of signaling have no relevance in Automatic signaling)

(Fig :(1)








42 For a train to run at its normal speed, (ref fig.1) it should see the approaching signal Green (S-1) and full braking distance should be available beyond the next signal (S-2) (so that if the next signal (S2) is yellow or double yellow, the Driver is able to stop the train short of the next train, thus the distance between the engines of both the trains, will include the length of the first train. Also we will have to cater for a safety margin which may be called "overlap". Thus the minimum distance between the trains comes to :Dtrains = Distance between a Green Signal and next signal which is yellow/Double yellow (from where the train will start braking) +Braking Distance +Train Length +Safety margin (Overlap Distance) or Dtrains = Dg:yy + Dbr + TI + Ov THE WORST DISTANCETRAVELLED BY A TRAIN :Now let us have a look at the worst distance traveled by any train, we will call that distance as worst distance "which consumes maximum running time of the train". During the co.urspof its . . journey, the train will take maximum time in the signalling sections which include halting stations; "Because the train will have to Decelerate, Stop, halt and Accelerate to catch up the full speed again, in these sections. Thus the distance travelled by th~ train which will consume maximum runningtime will include the breaking distance, and acceleratingdistance (because the train travels at its normal speed before braking and after accelerating). Let us call the worst case distance as "D worst". Hence
Dworst = Dbr + Dacc ,
I ,

where Dbr -- Braking distance for stopping a train from its normal speed and Daac-- Accelerating distance to achieve normal speed after starting And worst case time taken for travelling the above distance will be :T worst = Tbr + Tacc + Th + tr

EON. (1)

EON. (2) Where Tbr - Braking time Tacc Accele~ting time to achieve normal speed after starting Th - Halt time at station Tr Reaction time of Driver before starting the train.

t ~ ---.'



Now if Dtrainsisthe distancebetweentwo runningtrains,dependinguponthe requiredfreqeuncy of service there can be two situations :1) Where D trains> D worst (Normalsituation)

2) Where D trains < D worst (situation where the requirement of frequency of service is so high that we are not even able to allow trains to fully acceleratebefore it has to either stop again or reduce the speed because it is following another train closely.) Now let us consider the running time available for a train ( call it train frequency Le. running time for a given frequency of service) in each of the above cases. a) When Dtrains > Dworst Train frequency = Tworst + ( Dtrains - Dworst) Vbo
where Vbo = Booked speed Because the running time available is more than worst time, and, the train is supposed to travel at booked speed for a distance in which it is neither braking nor accelerating. b) Similarly when Dtrains < Dworst
Train Frequency = Tworst

- (Dworst - Dtrians)

= Tworst+ (Dtrains-Dworst) Vbo* EQN. (3) *[Assuming that (Dworst - Dtrains) will be very less because normally Dtrains will be more than Dworst but in extreme cases of requirement of very high frequency of service the distance between of requirement of very high frequency of service the distance between the trains may be less then
the bare minimum distance required for braking and acceleration. Thus even if it happens "(Dworst

Detrain)" will be very less and for such a small distance the trains must have either just started braking or must be close to achieving full speed on acceleration. Hence, no much error will be
caused by assuming that the train will be traveling at Vbo for a distance "Dworst

- Dtrains.")

[For example, referenceto Graph I, the distance required for achieving a speed of 65 kmph is 880 meters and that for achieving70 kmph is 1389 meters,thus the speed for a substantial distance of nearly 500 meters in the vicinity of booked speed varies only from 65 Kmph to 70 Kmph.) Thus we see that in both cases Tfreq = Tworst+ (Dtrains-OfJorst) Vbo

44 = Tworst + Dtrains -Dworst --


Vbo Vbo EQN (4)

= (Tace+ Tbr + Th + Tr) + (Dbr+Dg:yy+Ov+TI) - Dbr+Dacc

(By substituting values from Eqns. 1 &2 in Eqns 3) (Dg:yg - The distance between double yellow and green aspects, here applies to a signal which is 4th signal in rear of the starter signal. This will become more clear on subsequent discussions.) From the above it can be seen that the frequency of service that can be achieved will depend basically on the type of rolling stock in use which will govern the accelerating, braking and maximum achievable (Tacc,Tbr, Dbr, Dacc & Vbo) speed of the trains. Secondly it will also depend upon the halting patterns (Th), the train length (TI), the inter-signal distance and the signal overlap requirements. Many a times we tendto presume that whatever be the type of rolling stock we have, by close stacking of signals, any desired frequency of service can be achieved.The above derivation clearly brings out the limitations of the intersignal distances, in improving the frequency of service.
To illustrate it further let us take an example, based on the field data of Mumbai

- Kalyan

suburban section. (for a 9 coach EMU) (Ref charts in Annx A&B) EXAMPLE :Booked speed Vbo = 65 Kmph Tacc Tbr Th Tr Dbr Dg:yy Ov
T1 Dacc

= = = = = . = =
= =

78 Sec 52 Sec 30 Sec 05 Sec 425 Mts 1000 : i20 mts.


(To achieve 65 Kmph Vbo) (To stop from 65 Kmph) (At minor stations) (Reaction time of Driver of 5 Sec is taken) As standard (to stop from 65 Kmph (Assumed) (Standard signal overlap) (a 9 coach EMU length) (to achieve 65 Kmph Vbo)

200 mts 800 .rnts

Thus (as per Eqn -4)


= Tacc+

Tbr+ "Fh+Tr + (Dbr+Dg:yy+Ov+




Vbo = 78+52+30+5+(4.25+ 1000+120+200)- (425+880) 65XO.28 65XO.28




(Speed conversion factor 65kmph = 0.28m/secto meter/sec.) = 165 + 1745 -1305 65x 0.28 = 165+28

= 193 seconds
This is the maximum theoretical frequency of service that can be achieved Now if we reduce the intersignal distance, Dgy:yy to 400 meters then, Tfreq. = 165 + (425+400+120+200) - (425+88) 65XO-28 65XO-38 = 165 + 1145 - 1305 65XO-28 = 165-10 = 155 seconds It can be seen from the above that even by reducing the Dg :yy to 40% (Le. increasing the number of signals by two and a half times) the achievement in the frequency of service is a reduction of only 38 seconds.,(though in 3 aspect signalling it will not be possible to reduce Dg:yy to less than Dbr, which in this case is 425 meters.) By feeding various values of Dg:yy,it can be easily demonstrated that the score for achieving higher frequency of services, only by reducing ISD (inter signal distances) is very limited.The real change will come by changing the rolling stock parameters.

Hence we see that the above derivation gives the maximum possible frequency of service for a given type of rolling stock. This will have to be a guiding factor before any exercise for placement of signals is taken in hand.The derivation can also incidentally be used to determine the optimum booked speed for a given type of rolling stock for minimizing the frequency of service. A very interesting off-short of this, is a conclusion that, the maximum frequency of service can be achieved at a speed, which is much different from the maximum speed. The graph below plots the frequency of service for various speeds)or a 9 coach EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit) in Mumbai-Kalyan section during peak hours (Data from Charts in Annex A&B)

.5 160 ~150 ~~J~;~<~;~1_~J'


u 180 170

M~"Ji"Z'$~"N"";' "''''''''''\lillfl:1I'i,iowt"''''''''''






Speed in kmph Note : The meaning of ISO herll is the Inter signal distance in the sections away from the halting
stations. The inter signal distances in the viCinity of halting stations will depend on entirely different considerations, which we will be discussing subsequently. The distance Og:yy will be generally less then the ISO of the sections away from the station, because these signals will be comparatively clo.ser to the stations. Nevertheless Og:yy will be a representative figure of ISO and will vary proportionately.


- --


Having calculated the "maximum possible frequency of service", we can get down to t he scheme of placement of signals for achieving the same. The "Inter Signal Distance" as brought out earlier will be a uniform distance, applicable in automatic section, which are away from halting stations. In the vicinity of halting stations, the placement of signals will have to be decided separately. Let us consider the following situation,wherethe signals have been named as Home, Outer1, Outer2, Starter, Starter1 and Starter2 etc. Fig3






Starter I-:)


I Starter2 I

: STATION: L-__~

Location of each of the above signals will depend on the headway (Headway:- of a signal is defined as the time, that a train takes to change the aspect of the particular signals from green to Red and again to Green during the course of its run. Through in some cases, Yellowand double yellow aspect is considered instead of Green) available for its clearance, depending on the pattern of running of trains in the section controlled by them. This will be more clear on going through the following discussion, for the location of each of the above signals.

This is the only signal whose location does not call for any argument. The starter signal has to be located at the end of the Platform ( Howeverin cases where the platform is extra long, the starter will be located at the normal place of stoppage of the train in question. LOCA"fION OFTHE SIGNAL, NEXTTO STARTER(St1):
St1 should be locate~ at such a distance from ST, that when a train starts from the stations accelerates past St1 to el,ear the signal overlap ( so as to clear the St to Yellow) ( As per the signalling standards on Indian Railways, Red signal is preceded by a Yellow signal, which in turn is preceded by a double yellow signal which in turn is preceded by a Green Signal). The time taken should be less then or equattoTrainirequency. Or in other words, the Yellow head way of S1<= Tfreq. Thus the distance between St and St1 ie. Dst: st1' is

Dst: st1 = . Dice +Tfreq-Tacc-Tr-Tp)*Vbo-TIOv EQU-5

--- -

47 Where he

Dacc = Distance travelled in accelerating up to booked speed

Tacc= Timetakenfor above

Tr = Reaction time of the Driver before starting Tp = Time loss due to permanent speed restriction. Vbo = Booked speed TI = Train length Ov :I:Overlap Because after accelerating upto booked speed the train will travel at booked speed, and the train will have to travel its length and overlap distance for turning the starter St to Yellow. Let us take an example of train with a booked speed of 65 Kmph a 9 Car rake (200 meter length) and acceleration and deceleration characteristics as per Annexure A (The date is a resultof actual trials conducted in Mumbai suburban section of Mumbai-Kalyan), We can assume the frequency of service required as 3 minutes Le., 180 seconds. To achie'le a practical headway of 180 seconds, it is considered reasonably safe to target a theoretical headway of 150 seconds. Thus:-

Dstst1 =880m (Le. Dacc = Distance for accelerating upto Vbo) + 150-78-5) x 18 - 200 - 120 (78 Sec is the time for accelerating to Vbo, 200m is train length and 120 m is overlap distance Vbo=65 kmph = 18 m/Sec) (AssumingTp i.e., permanent speed restrictions to be NIL)

Dstst1 =880+67x18-320 =880+ 1200-320 =1766 meters

Though the signal St1 can be placed at a maximum distance of 1766 meters from ST. The point to be noted here is that we are considering only" Yellow Headway" of St and not "Green Headway", as normally the case should be. This is to take into account the fact that every train stops at this signal for halting station and restarts after the halt (There may be a train running through also but the scheme has to be designed for a union pattern of halting. Although, as will be clear later in the discussion, that the, scheme will be generally suitable for such occasional run through trains also). On starting from a speed of "Zero", the train need not see a double yellow or green signal. . We'll have to defer, the discussion, about placement of other signals for some time as at this point, it becomes necessary to discuss some aspects like Headways of various other signals and the details of Inter signal distances in general. These are brought out as follows:-





On similar arguments, the headways of various other signals are required to be as follows (Ref to fig2)

St Sh Sol S02 St1 St2

Required Headway.

- Yellow ( as the trains has to start at this signals after stopping - Yellow ( as the train has to stop after this signal) - Double yellow ( as the train has to stop after the next signal Le., SH
- Green (as the train has to stop after the next to next signal)

- Green ( as the train has to catch up speed while approaching / Crossing this signal)

- Green ( as the train has to catch up speed while approaching / Crossing this signal)

INTER SIGNAL DISTANCE (ISD) As brought out ea~lier,the location of signals in the Automatic block sections in the vicinity of Halting stations has to be decided seperately for each signal. But the location of signals in Automatic Block sections away from halting stations can be at a uniform" Intersignal distances", which may be called the ISO for the entire Scheme. This ISO will depend upon some more factors, rather ttlan only headway considerations. Let us examine them in detail.










Fig.4 Refer'to figure3 above (considering a 4 aspect signalling Scheme, the preference of 4 aspect signalling over 3 aspect or any other number of aspects is discussed in the next section). In the discussion ~nearlier section, the trains under consideration for the scheme will run at their booked speed, ~rily at signal S02 and onwards (S03 & S04) because at St & Sh requirement is only yellow and that at S01 is only double yellow. (The train will be braking while passing these signals so as to stop at the station, thus it will not be running at its booked speed.)

' ... --

When a train passes S02, it turns it to Red ( in Automatic Signalling territory, when a train passes a signal, the signal turns to Red). The other signals in rear follow the aspects, yellow, double yellow and green respectively Le., S03 turns to yellow S04 Turns to double yellow and S05 turns to Green. Thus the uniform ISO will apply S05 onwards because, for S03 to turn to green Sh will be Red, S01 will be 'V" and S02 will be VV, ad since the trains will start retarding at S01, Sh (so as stop, short of St) the time taken for S03 to turn to Green will be more, Similarly for S04 to turn to Green, S01 will be Red, S02 will be "V" and S03 will be "VV" and since the train may start retarding at S01 for stopping at St, which will consume more time for the yellow of S02 to come, it will take more time for the Green of S04 to come.

I I .


Fig 5




'. ~




Let us calculate the locations of such signals (refer figS above). The distance between S05 to S06 to S07 to S08 can be calculated as follows: .

Os08:s05 = Time available for running For clearing S08 from Green to Red, Vellow,Oouble Veilow and again to Green after a train passes it at booked speed. X Booked speed

= (Totaltime available as per the required headwayas per freq. Of service)

- (Time for clearing train

length + overlap beyond signal S05)

X Booked Speed

Hence, since the ISO is uniform, the distance between S05 to S06 ( or ISO) will be Os05:s06 = ISO = Os05:s06/3 = (As S05,S06,S07, S08 are equal distant from each other) OR ISO (Tfreqx Vbo)/3 -Tl+ov/3 Let us consider the example for the~ minutes service. With a theoretical headway requirement of 150 seconds, a train length of 270 m ( 12 coach EMU) and an overlap of 120 meters. ISO=1/3(150x18-(270+120): Speed 65 kmph=18m/sec = 1/3 (2700-390) 1/3(2310)


or ISO = 770 meters Here it is worth noting that if we don't need Yellow and double yellow signals in between Red and Green, the ISO can be as high as 2310 meters. If our working conditions are ideal Le, the signals work to 100% reliability and the running of trains is at exact uniform intervals then achieving both the above factors is possible. However practically these type of situations can not be ensured, leading to the use of 4 aspect signalling, necessitating less ISOs). Similarly for a section 10 minutes service the ISI will be : (Considering a theoretical headway of 8")

ISO = 1/3 (60x8)x18 270+120)

= 1/3 (85540-390) 8150/3 2717 Meters

= 2.7 Kms

MAXIMUM ISD However, keeping the ISO only as per the above consideration, will cause problems of bunching. When a train stops for more time in any section, than it is supposed to, or goes at a slow speed, the Oriver of the following trains comes across a Red signal. He passes this Red signal as per rules ( After stopping at the signal for 1" during day and 2" during night and at 15 kmph during day and 8 kmph during night*) and takes a long time to clear the section, which results in the next trains coming across a similar situation and so on and on. etc., In the automatic section there will be a number of occasions in which a.train will have to pass an automatic signal at On (Red), or example, some situations are :a) A train ahead in the section b) An intermittent track circuit failure resulting in signal going to "On" because of its fail safe feature, due to : * (As per the prevailing General Rules on Indian Railways) i) Technical fault-ip tract circuiting ii) Engineering wdrk going on in the tract circuited area resulting in short circuiting of the tract circuit. iii) Miscreants shorting the tract circuit. iv) Rail fracture resulting in discontinuity of tract circuit current c) Fusing of other aspects' bulb of the signal d) Fusil1g of Red aspect bLftb of next signal etc. As per the present General and subsidiary Rules of Central Railway, when an automatic signal is passed at "ON" by a train, it must first stop short of the signal for 1" during day and 2" during night .and-subseQ.uently proceed at a speed of 15 kmph during day and 8 KMPH during night, upto the next signal.


-- --


Thus if we cater for the day situation to clear the signal even only to "Yellow" after passage of one train ( With signal at ON Red) with above stipulations. The ISO will be calculated as follows:

T"-- --

ISO = (Thw-Td-Ta-Tov) x 15 kmph Thw -Time as per headway requirement

Td -The difference in time that the train will take to stop at the signal instead of travelling at booked
speed Ta - Half of 1" during day. Tov - Time for clearing the train length and overlap while accelerating at next signal. Let us take an example of 3" service, with 9 coach EMU Hence ISO = (150 ( 52-25)-60-42) x 15 x 0.28 Where Thw - 150 (Required) Td = 52-25 (from data from Ann "8") Ta = 60 Sec Tov = 42 Sec (From data from Ann "A") 0.28 = conversion factor for 15 kmph = (150-129)x15xO.28 = 21x15xO.28=64 Or ISD = 64 Meters

which is not practically possible.

If we take a case of 4" service. ISO = (60 +150 -129) x 15 x 0.28 = 321 or ISO: 321 meters Which is again not practic~1lypossible ( Particularly in section away from station. Where the ISO is meant for) For higher frequencies of services, this ISO will increase, but it will be far below the ISO,which is otherwise required and it will be a great wastage to employ such smalilSOs Thus it can be concluded that the bunching of trains can not be avoided, without creating a gap Le., canceling of the trains so as to send to next train'only after twice the normal headway.

Thus after creating a gap we will get second train for clearing the section. Hence ISO = (180+21) x 15xO.28 (From last equation adding 180 sec margin of cancelled train)

= 800 meters (3" services)