Central Railway in race to get Western Railway coaches
Mumbai: The Central Railway (CR) is racing against time to get coaches from the Western Railway (WR) before 12-coach train services are operated and the Harbour line is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). However, Central Railway’s plan to convert all its nine-car services into 12-car ones may hit a hurdle as the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) may slow down delivery of 12-car rakes to the Mumbai suburban system.
ICF has orders to manufacture EMU rakes under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-II). It has so far delivered 22 Bombardier rakes to Western Railway, which in turn releases its Siemens rakes ordered under MUTP-I to CR. A senior official said, “Kolkata Metro also needs rakes and we have learnt that there are plans to cater to their demand simultaneously. ICF can produce four rakes per month but if it has to cater to the demand of Kolkata Metro, the number of rakes coming to Mumbai will come down to only two per month.”
According to the timeline prepared by CR, all its nine-car rakes are to be converted into 12-car ones by June 15, 2016. By the end of April, it aims to augment at least 20 rakes so that approximately 200 services 12-car services can be operated in May. The balance 16 rakes were scheduled to be augmented by June 15, of which work on 10 will be completed before May 31. CR requires 36 rakes to operate its 590 services on the Harbour Line.
However, a senior official said, “We may start operating 12-car trains from May but conversion of all the 36 rakes to 12-car ones will not materialise by June. It is likely to get dragged on for months now.”
Officials said while Kolkata Metro too faces the problem of overcrowding, it was not as acute as Mumbai which has witnessed several incidents of people falling from the train. A senior official said, “At least Kolkata Metro has closed-door rakes so passenger safety is better compared to Mumbai.” The official added that railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who hails from Mumbai, should intervene to ensure that the woes of the Harbour Line are addressed on a priority basis.
The problem for CR is that it not only has to augment the rakes from nine-car to 12-car, but also ensure that these rakes are able to run on 25KV Alternating Current (AC) traction. CR plans to switch to 25KV AC traction from 1500V Direct Current (DC) by March 31. CR officials said they have already begun work to retrofit rakes from DC to DC-AC compatible rakes and pure AC compatible ones.
The CR will need a total of 24 rakes, of which 12 will be for the conversion to AC on March 31 while the remaining 12 will be used to increase the number of coaches from nine to 12 (for which the 72-hour block has been operated). Officials said that it would be “extremely tricky” to convert to AC overnight.
“We think it will be trickier to shift all the trains from DC to AC overnight as the trains from WR are not coming in as fast as we would have wanted them to,” said a senior railway official on the condition of anonymity.
“We can keep increasing the number of coaches to 12 slowly and in a phase-wise manner but the conversion will be the real test,” he added. The WR has provided 18 Seimens rakes that can run on DC and AC until now but the Harbour needs a total of 36 rakes and Trans-Harbour 10 rakes to have 12 coaches. “Right now we are thinking of getting through the 72-hour block, which is the immediate issue. Then, until March 31 we will have work towards AC trains,” he added.
It is believed the conversion to AC will save on power bills and reduce the number of technical glitches that result in disruptions on the line.