Intercity Travel: Metro Rail Coaches can make it Fast, Comfortable and Safe

Paper on low-cost solutions for high-speed rail travel

To increase the average speed and comfort of passengers, the Railways should use train-sets, or electrical multiple units, in the intercity segment, a Ministry official said on Wednesday. At present, trains in the intercity segment are hauled by locomotives or engines.

Such trains, which are already being used in the metro services, will help save travel time by three hours on a 1,440-km route— New Delhi-Howrah segment, for instance — by 17.5 per cent.

Moreover, the incremental money spent on these can be recovered in under five years, even if entire train sets are imported.

To get these train-sets, the Railways can simply order them through international competitive bidding or by producing them at rail coach factories on an LHB platform (used in Rajdhani and Shatabdi), R.K. Bhatnagar, Adviser-Electrical, Railway Board, said, while presenting his paper on low-cost solutions of high-speed rail. The paper was jointly authored by Jaideep, Director, Electrical Engineering.

There are multiple vendors in this segment, such as Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens, CSR and CNR, say industry sources. For passengers, such trains will be less jerky, comfortable and speedier. They will also have more seating or sleeping capacity, making it possible for the Railways to recover incremental investments.

These trains will help improve average speed as they accelerate and brake much faster. Trains currently used in Rajdhani Express can go up to 150 kmph, but the average speed continues to be 90 kmph as there are several speed restrictions.

Most countries in Europe and Asia use similar trains with operating speeds of 130-160 kmph. China is also using train sets for overnight services with sleeper coaches.

“These trains would be energy-efficient, cost-effective with modern technological solutions for increasing average train speeds,” said Bhatnagar.

Incidentally, Bombardier and Alstom have already set up factories in India with capacity to manufacture coaches. Alstom has supplied coaches to Chennai Metro, while Bombardier has supplied coaches to Delhi Metro.

When contacted, Bharat Salhotra, Managing Director-Alstom-Transport, said this step should be adopted as it would help multinationals that have put in investments in setting up factories in India.

Harsh Dhingra, Chief Country Representative, Bombardier Transportation, declined to comment on the pricing. “The pricing could vary, based on specification and special features sought by Indian Railways,” said Dhingra, adding that company’s facility in Savli can manufacture broad gauge train sets and bogies.