Is the ‘Bombardier for Western, Siemens for Central decision unfair on the 40-odd lakh people who use CR’s suburban line everyday? Opinion on this is divided, but a large number of railway officials believe the vast expanse of CR’s suburban network requires the best of technology and, everytime a new train is introduced, CR should be a recipient. takes a look at what all makes up the debate.
The height of the problem: As highlighted by earlier, the height of the Bombardier rake is more than the other makes. This meant that there would have been a problem running them at places on CR’s mainline network where the bridges have not been raised even after the conversion of CR’s electricals from 1,500-volt Direct Current to 25,000-volt Alternating Current. However, with the Integral Coach Factory, which builds these rakes, having reduced the height of Bombardier ones, the rakes at a height of 4,257 millimetres are actually lower than the Siemens ones at 4,276mm.
“It is perfectly safe to run Bombardier on CR and, in fact, in places where there are height restrictions due to lower overhead wires or low bridges, the Bombardier might be a better option,” said a top-ranking ICF official.
Why CR isn’t getting the Bombardier rake: According to sources, the decision to keep Bombardier rakes away from CR’s suburban network was taken by a team led by current general manager SK Sood in order to avoid duplication of inventory and spares, and, in the process, save the railways money. It also puts less pressure on motormen to learn two types of controls. However, the move has its detractors. “CR suburban is among the biggest in the world and can manage to have different kinds of rakes in its fleet. It just robs CR and, in turn, the commuters of having trains of different technologies. Why should CR always get hand-me-downs from Western Railway?” asked a senior CR official.
The original Railway Board decision taken in 2010 was that of the 72 Bombardier rakes that would be made for Mumbai, 38.5 (38 rakes and 6 coaches) would be given to CR, and the rest to WR.
Isolation might not be a good idea: The officials opposed to this ‘no Bombardier for CR’ diktat point out that isolation of this kind — Siemens for CR and Bombardier for WR — might not be a good idea. During the Diva agitation of January 2, when protesters extensively damaged 10 Siemens rakes, CR had to send an SOS to WR for spares.
“This SOS saved CR as the damaged rakes could be put back into service within a few hours. Imagine if there was complete isolation. CR would have had to approach the ICF in Chennai and the whole process would have taken a few days, a luxury we do not have on Mumbai suburban,” said the official.
The old trains begin to hurt: While CR’s fleet of 58 Siemens rakes are managing to run at an average speed of 97kmph on some stretches on the fast line between Kurla and Thane and over 100kmph beyond Kalyan, its fleet of 32 older trains are running at a maximum speed of 80kmph. Of these 32 rakes, 10 are BHEL makes, nine are retrofitted trains than can run on both DC and AC, and 13 are retrofitted AC rakes. “These older rakes are just not being able to match the speed requirements of the suburban system and that is affecting the entire schedule. People are suffering,” said an official.