Debate over closed-door suburban local trains

मुंबई Mumbai:  The goods news is the railways has decided to construct all new suburban local trains with automatic sliding doors (ASD) to enhance passenger safety. The bad news for Mumbaikars, however, is that this would only apply to the trains that will be built for Mumbai after the full supply of 72 Bombardier rakes expected to come in by the end of 2016. Two of these Bombardier rakes have already been built and are being tested while production of the other 70 is yet to begin at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai (ICF).

The move as expected has given rise to a debate among officials on whether leaving out the 70 Bombardier rakes from this ASD-for-all diktat was the wisest move after all.

A sizable number of railway officials spoke to, pointed out to the fact that getting these 70 Bombardier rakes to have ASDs will further delay the already delayed project, as it would require extensive design changes. They also pointed out that since the project for 72 Bombardier rakes came out of a global tendering process that started in December 2010, making such sweeping changes now might be a legal headache as well.

“It completely changes the financial contours of the tender as well as the cost of the rakes if they have to be fitted with ASDs. In such a case, the requirement for vestibules would almost be mandatory. All of this could take the cost of each rake by almost 15-20 per cent,” said an official.

As reported earlier, the cost estimates given by the ICF to the Railway Board for a train that will have ASDs and vestibules, but no AC – will be Rs.41 crores, which is almost Rs.6 crores more than the cost of the Bombardier rakes being built there.

However, a section of officials maintain that the issue is something that requires intervention by the railway ministry. “Wouldn’t it be foolish that the 70 rakes get built and then we try to retrofit ASDs onto these rakes. Firstly, such retro-fitment is bad engineering and secondly, we will be spending Rs.4 crore per rake for such retro-fitment of ASD at current prices. In all, it will cost Rs.288 crores to retro-fit all 72 rakes,” said an official.

The ASD project for Mumbai’s locals, first touted by Central Railway, is already underway on Western Railway with plans to retro-fit and test a local in the middle of October. Static trials have been a success but officials connected to the project said trials in real time would be far more difficult and different from the static ones.

The Automatic Sliding Doors project:
(1) Without vestibules, without AC: Cost Rs.39 crores
(2) With vestibules, without AC: Cost Rs.41 crores
(3) With vestibules, with AC: Cost Rs.43 crores