Indian Railways set to give nod to make Aluminium Coaches to increase Train speeds

The Delhi Metro has used aluminium coaches and Indian Railways is keen on acquiring them as part of its modernisation drive. The lighter weight carriages consume lesser energy compared to steel coaches and help increase train speeds.

NEW DELHI/RAEBARELI: Raebareli’s Modern Coach Factory (MCF) could start making lighter weight and more durable aluminium coaches, for the first time in India, with better corrosion resistance as early as next fiscal year, officials aware of the development said.

The lighter weight carriages consume lesser energy compared to steel coaches and help increase train speeds. The Delhi Metro has used aluminium coaches and Indian Railways is keen on acquiring them as part of its modernisation drive.

Officials said the Railway Board is set to approve MCF’s project report for manufacturing the aluminium carriages.

They added that the MCF will have to bring the technology either from Europe or Japan. A global tender for it will be floated once MCF gets the go-ahead.

A railway delegation had recommended adoption of the technology to manufacture aluminium coaches in India after visiting coach factories in Europe earlier this year. Countries in Europe and Japan have been using aluminium coaches for at least 15 years.

“Aluminium coaches have the advantage of lesser weight and better corrosion resistance. Lesser weight results in savings in haulage costs and better acceleration/deceleration.

“Better corrosion resistance would result in lesser maintenance requirements in the workshops. They will also last longer than the traditional LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches,” said MCF general manager Rajesh Aggarwal.

The Railway Board had asked for a project report for manufacturing 500 aluminium coaches per annum. In its report, the MCF has proposed to build 250 coaches annually in the first phase.

“Since Indian Railway does not have the technology to manufacture these coaches, we will first have to bring it in. It will cost around Rs 150 crore. In the second phase, when the proposal is to manufacture 500 coaches per annum, additional Rs.62 crore will be required,” said a railway ministry official.

The official said the rate of return for this project is 25-30%. He added any railway project is considered commercially viable if the rate in above 15%. When the maintenance and manufacturing costs are lesser, the rate of return is higher.

“Many countries have adopted aluminium coaches as they are rusting free, can last longer; their cost of maintenance is also less. This is the right time to go for aluminium coaches,” said former Railway Board chairman R K Singh.

MCF has increased production exponentially to 368 coaches in the four months of 2018-19. This is almost equal to the coaches manufactured in first four months of last four years and almost double the number of carriages built in the same period last year.

MCF’s capacity of 1,000 coaches per annum is being increased to 2,000 with an investment of Rs.480 crore.

ICF hits 2500th mark in 2017-18, to make Aluminium Coaches from 2020

Taking a huge ‘technological’ stride towards light-weight rail coaches on par with international standards, the Integral Coach Factory, Perambur, will start manufacturing aluminium coaches from 2020, S. Mani, General Manager, ICF, said in an interaction. At an event to mark the achievement of 2,500 coaches in 2017-18, Mani also said that ICF would export its coaches to Sri Lanka. On March 31, ICF rolled out a total of 2,503 coaches of various capacities. According to ICF higher officials, the manufacturing unit of Indian Railways had crossed the 2,500-mark for the first time.

“We had manufactured 2,277 coaches in 2016-17. That feat remained as our top performance until we crossed 2,500 today (Saturday). Our 2500th coach with 102 seats will go to Eastern Railway. We have manufactured 39 more coaches than Railway Board’s target,” one official said. Senior most employees of ICF C. Bakthavatchalam and V. Rajagopal flagged off the 2,500th coach in presence of Mani. Train-18 would be almost on par with international standards.

But Train-20 will be on par with international standards with aluminium coaches, Mani told. According to ICF officials, Train-18 will be rolled out in 2018 in a fast pace. “We are now making coaches using stainless steel. Starting from Trian-20, aluminium coaches will be manufactured in significant numbers after 2020”.The officials also said that ICF had exported coaches to as many as 14 African and Asian countries from 1970.

Also, AC-II tier coaches faces low demand, and have turned into a revenue-losing resource for Railways. However, the AC-III tier coaches always remains in demand.

Soon, you will have more chances to book a confirm AC-III tier berth in premium trains like Rajdhani and Durontos. Why? Because Indian Railways had decided to replace loss-making AC-II tier coaches with AC-III tier coaches.

The Railway Board has already given instructions to manufacture more AC-III tier coaches, reported PTI. Railways has identified as many as 250 AC-II tier coaches across the country with low passenger volume.

An AC-III tier coach has 64 to 72 number of berths. Often, the AC-III tier seats in these trains get booked in advance and many passengers fail to book a confirmed berth. Then they either book a wait-listed ticket in a hope that it will get confirmed or search for berths some alternative trains.

There are two AC-II tier coaches in each Rajdhani and due to low demand, they have turned into a revenue-losing resource for Railways. However, the AC-III tier coaches always remains in demand.

If such a replacement is done only in the 50 Rajdhani trains, it will create 14,400 (including up and down journey) additional 3rd AC coaches.

The AC-III tier coaches carry around 85 million passengers annually while the number for AC-I, AC II and AC chair car is just around 55 million.

Indian Railways is witnessing a lean period and seat occupancy on several routes have fallen to as low as 30 per cent. Due to this, Railways has also planned an overhaul of its Flexi-fare scheme.

The public transporter may use the formula used for Humsafar trains in which the first 50 per cent berths of these trains will be sold at 15 per cent higher price than the base price and the slab will change with every 10 per cent of the berth sold thereafter.

As of now, under flexi-fare scheme the base fares of premium trains increase by 10 per cent with every 10 per cent of berths sold subject to a prescribed ceiling limit.

Recently, a CAG report has also criticised Railways’ Flexi-fare scheme and has said that the railways is charging AC-II passengers on par with airlines on certain routes.

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