PERAMBUR: In an effort to increase safety of its passengers, Indian Railways is set to induct 4410 Linke hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches with anti-collision technology — which cause less fatalities — instead of the current Integral Coach Factory (ICF) coaches during the current financial year.
This will be 84 per cent higher than 2,385 coaches that the Railways produced in 2017-18.
LHB design coaches are lighter in weight, have higher carrying capacity, speed potential, and better safety features as compared to ICF coaches.
According to reports, India has only 6,000-7,000 LHB coaches and they are used in some high-end Rajdhanis and Shatabdi passenger trains.
During the initial days of LHB coaches, between 2004-14, 2,327 coaches were made, while it increased to 3,068 between 2014 and 2017, officials said.
In October 2017, India started making its first ‘Make in India’ LHB coaches in October last year from ICF in Chennai. Though the country had acquired the technology for making LHB coaches way back in 1995 from LHB in Germany, some components were still imported from abroad. Based on the roadmap, railways will stop producing ICF coaches.
The government introduced a fund, namely Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK), in 2017-18 with a corpus of Rs 1 trillion to be utilized over five years for replacement, renewal and upgradation of critical safety assets. Based on this, a provision of Rs 200 billion has been made to fund safety-related works in 2018-19.
In addition, the Railways is reportedly investing around Rs 150 billion for retro-fitment of existing coaches. The national transporter may get 40,000 coaches with upgraded interiors by 2022-23, for which the approximate cost for refurbishing each coach will come to around Rs 3 million.
The average life period of per coach is 30 years in India, and the board has decided to at least add Center Buffer Coupler (CBC) to these coaches during the mid-life rehabilitation period and also phase-out ICF coaches gradually. Introduction of CBC will reduce casualty in case of an accident.
The Railways produces 3,000 coaches, and phases out 1,000 coaches every year. Out of the total 63,000 coaches that the Indian railways has, the majority are still unsafe as they do not have the anti-climbing technology.
The safety strategy charted out by the Railways includes timely replacement of over-aged assets, adoption of suitable technologies for upgradation and maintenance of track, rolling stock, signalling and interlocking systems, safety drives, emphasis on training of officials and safety inspections at regular intervals to monitor safe practices. The Railways is also looking to renew 5,000-kilometer long track during the current financial year compared to an average of around 2,500 km. Interestingly, the sanctioned allocation for track machines increased over five-fold to Rs 72.68 billion in 2018-19, from an average of Rs 11.87 billion from 2014 to 2017.