Union Budget 2017-18 allocated a fund called ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ with a corpus of Rs.1 lakh Crore to be utilised over a period of 5 years for replacement, renewal as well as upgradation of critical safety assets of Railways. In 2018-19, a provision of Rs.20000 crore has also been made out of RRSK to fund essential works for ensuring higher safety.
Indian Railways, so as to better the safety standards in rail travel, have decided to fully go with Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) design coaches and stopped production of the old ICF design coaches with effect from April 2018. This decision will mark the distinction among all other major policy decisions taken by Ministry of Railways in the recent past to revamp the Indian Railways.
Rajan Gohain, Minister of State for Railways in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha stated that considering the operating conditions on Indian Railways, the passenger coaches of the national transporter have been designed with the necessary safety features. However, the Railway Ministry informed that in order to provide safer and more comfortable journey to passengers, it has decided to replace conventional ICF design coaches of Mail or Express trains with LHB design coaches in a phased manner and from April 2018 onwards, only LHB Coaches are manufactured by IR’s Production Units.
LHB coaches are the passenger coaches of Indian Railways that have been developed by Linke-Hofmann-Busch of Germany (renamed Alstom LHB GmbH in 1998 after the takeover by Alstom) and mostly produced by Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala, and Integral Coach Factory, Perambur.
While Indian Railways acquired the technology for LHB Coaches from Germany in 1995 and manufacturing began in Rail Coach Facotory/Kapurthala in 1998, they have been used since year 2000 on the broad gauge (1676 mm) network of Indian Railways.
Initially, 24 air conditioned coaches were imported from Germany for use in the Shatabdi Expresses, after which the Rail Coach Factory started manufacturing the LHB Coaches after the technology transfer. As compared to ICF design coaches, the LHB design coaches are lighter in weight. Not only that, they also have higher carrying capacity as well as higher speed potential. Also, other than these features, the LHB design coaches have increased codal life and better safety features, says Indian Railways. LHB coaches also have anti-climbing features, so that in case of a collision, the coaches do not climb on top of each other.
As safety is the main priority, Indian Railways says it is taking all possible steps in order to prevent accidents and to enhance safety such as adoption of suitable technologies for upgradation and maintenance of track, rolling stock, interlocking systems and signaling, timely replacement of over-aged assets, safety drives, safety inspections, training of officials, educating staff for observance of safe practices etc.
Meanwhile, in Union Budget for 2017-18, Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley announced a fund called ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ (RRSK). The fund has been created with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore, which is to be utilized over a period of five years for replacement, renewal as well as for upgradation of critical safety assets. Also, in 2018-19, a provision of Rs 20,000 crore has been made out of RRSK to fund essential works for ensuring safety.
The coaches are designed for an operating speed up to 160 km/h and could go up to 200 km/h. However, they have been tested up to 180 km/h. Their length of 23.54 m and a width of 3.24 m means a higher passenger capacity, compared to conventional rakes (US: consists). The tare weight of the AC chair car was weighed as 39.5 tonnes. They are considered to be “anti-telescopic”, which means they do not get turned over or flip in case of a collision (chiefly head-on).
These coaches are made of stainless steel and the interiors are made of aluminium which make them lighter as compared to conventional rakes. Each coach also has an “advanced pneumatic disc brake system” for efficient braking at higher speeds, “modular interiors” that integrate lighting into ceiling and luggage racks with wider windows. The improved suspension system of LHB coaches ensures more riding comfort for the passengers compared to conventional rakes.
The air conditioning system of the LHB coaches is of higher capacity compared to the older rakes and is controlled by a microprocessor which is said to give passengers better comfort than the older coaches during summer and winter seasons. They are relatively quieter as each coach produces a maximum noise level of 60 decibels while conventional coaches can produce 100 decibels.
Each LHB coach costs between ₹ 15 million to 20 million, whereas the power car which houses a generator costs about 30 million. In 2016, IR declared that all ICF coaches will be replaced by LHB coaches to provide more safety and comfort.
LHB Coach advantages over ICF Coaches:
- The LHB coaches can travel at a higher speed. The maximum permissible speed for LHB coaches in 160 kmph. These coaches have been tested at speeds ranging 200 kmph. While the ICF coach is permitted to travel at a maximum speed of 110 kmph.
- The LHB coaches are anti-telescopic. These coaches do not penetrate into the adjacent coaches in case of accidents.
- During collision or derailment, the LHB coaches do not climb on the adjacent coaches, due to the use of Center Buffer Couling(CBC), instead of the dual buffer system.
- The LHB coaches are 1.7 meters longer than the conventional ICF coaches. This enhances the seating capacity of the LHB coaches.
- The coaches are equipped with FIAT bogie, which has lesser moving parts than the ICF bogie. This results in high durability of the bogie and requires less maintenance. FIAT bogie facilitates higher speeds.
- The weight per meter of this coach is less than the ICF coach and is easier to haul.
- As the coach is newly designed, the materials used for manufacturing the coach are of superior quality and require less maintenance.
- Ride Index of the LHB coaches is 2.5–2.75, less than the ICF ride index of 3.25.
- These coaches are equipped with “controlled discharge toilet system” (CDTS) and Bio-toilets, which are environmental friendly.
- The LHB coaches use “advanced pneumatic disc brake system” for efficient braking at higher speeds.
- The coaches have Modular interiors.
- Noise generated by these coaches is 40% less than the ICF coaches.
- The Air Conditioning in theses coaches is of higher capacity and is controlled by a micro-processor.
- These coaches are of lower cost when compared to the ICF coaches.
- The ICF coaches require Periodic Overhaul(POH) once in 18 months. While the LHB coaches requires POH once in 24 months. EVen the maintenance cost is less than that of ICF coaches.
- Due to CBC coupling, the LHB coaches experience more jerks.
- The LHB coaches are not self generating like ICF coaches. A separate generator car has to used for its power usage purpose.
Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala
The Rail Coach Factory (RCF) in Kapurthala, during October 2017, have ramped up the production of German-designed LHB coaches with better facilities for passengers to cater to a speed up to 200 Kmph. These coaches are made of stainless steel materials and the manufacturing techniques and skills adopted are of higher order than traditional coaches, which are made of mild steel.
RCF had now doubled the production during this financial year 2018-19. More than 180 Vendors of various industries engaged in the business of manufacturing and supplying stainless steel, heavy and light fabrication sub-assemblies, assemblies, rubber metal-bonded items, seats and berths, chairs, lavatories, fittings, interiors furnishings, lighting, air conditioning, air brake and plumbing items situated in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal are engaged in speedy supply of material for the development and supplying various types of components for the LHB coaches to various premium trains like Rajdhani, Shatabadi, Gatiman Express and specialised coaches like Tejas and Hamsafar.
Not only the RCF Kapurthala is engaged in this large scale production activity but also the Modern Coach Factory at Raebareli and Integral Coach Factory in Chennai which are equally racing ahead with inherent innovative techniques, thus making a manifold increase in the production vis-a-vis the requirement of materials.
Ashwani Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board, New Delhi visited Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala on 05.05.2018 and inspected the ongoing activities of RCF/Kapurthala. He inspected Shell division, where the Senior Supervisors explained him the fabrication process in making of Shells and also visited the Paint Shop where he had a long purposeful discussions with the Supervisors on efficacy of personal protection equipment used by them. CRB also had a comprehensive discussion on Tejas Coaches with RCF Team.
Integral Coach Factory, Perambur
The Integral Coach Factory (ICF) has started manufacturing Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches with fully indigenous components. The factory located at Perambur on the suburbs of Chennai is now fully engaged in manufacturing about 1,600 LHB coaches in the current fiscal.
As part of its plans to innovate coach designs, now ICF has turned out one LACCN (LHB 3 Tier AC) Coach with continuous windows, by providing additional glasses on vertical pillars. This will provide the Air-conditioned coach an aesthetically pleasing and very good appearance from outside. It has been planned to provide such continuous windows in all AC coaches in a phased manner. The LHB Coaches made by ICF-Perambur at present have been provided with split windows of size 1100 mm (L) x 680 mm (H). However, there will be no change in the interior of the coaches that will be maintained as before.
GM/ICF S.Mani recently said that the LHB coaches were made under the Make in India initiative with fully indigenous components. “We will make more such coaches as part of a plan to reduce the imported content in these coaches,” he added.
Though LHB coaches are also manufactured in the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) in Kapurthala, the ICF has taken the lead in producing coaches that are fully indigenous. The factory is planning to fit indigenously made wheels for AC coaches in the future. The Rail Wheel Factory in Bengaluru has been supplying the wheels for the LHB coahes (both AC and Non-AC).
As Indian Railways has decided to replace all ICF-designed conventional coaches with safer and faster LHB models, production of the latter has been stepped up. The amount of outsourcing has also been cut down drastically which is clearly a shift from the earlier policy of outsourcing 80% of the work.
Also, ICF/Perambur is about to export around 800 LHB Coaches to Sri Lanka possibly in the next few weeks and the consignment is fully ready at the Factory. Also, export of six DMU (diesel multiple units) train sets consisting of 78 modern coaches worth Rs 600 crore is on cards and process for transportation has been recently concluded.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal made a surprise visit to the coach manufacturing works at the Integral Coach Factory on 14th June, 2018 and conducted the inspection of the ongoing works of the LHB sheds and harness shop 39, and inquired about the process involved in the coach manufacturing. Minister also inspected the newly manufactured coaches for Kolkota Metro Rail and three-phase Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU) at line 16 and 17 and despatch shed. During his inspection at the Shell division and Spring shop, the Minister assured to extend the maximum support from the Railway Board to increase the Coach production capacity of the ICF.
Golden Rock Railway workshop gearing up to overhaul LHB Coaches
With the ramped up production of Linke Hofman Busch (LHB) coaches by the Railway Ministry, the Golden Rock Railway Workshop in Tiruchi, in the month of December 2017, had declared that the Workshop will be fully geared up to carry out periodic overhaul of the LHB coaches when they are sent for servicing.
Engaged in diverse activities, including manufacture of container wagons and POH of diesel locomotives and passenger coaches, this nodal workshop has forwarded a detailed proposal seeking sanction of funds for creation of separate infrastructure facility and procurement of machinery and equipment to overhaul LHB coaches in the last budget, which was sanctioned by the Finance Ministry.
Presently, the over 80-year-old workshop established during the colonial era is carrying out periodic overhaul of coaches manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory at Perambur in Chennai. With increasing number of long distance trains being run with LHB coaches now, the workshop authorities have also got approval sanctioning Rs. 35 crore fund for creation of a dedicated shed and procurement of required equipment to overhaul such type of coaches with wider bays and doorways.
Trains including the Chennai Egmore–Tiruchi Rockfort Express, the Chennai Egmore–Madurai Pandian Express, Chennai Egmore–Tiruchi Cholan Express and the Lokmanya Tilak–Karaikal Express are being run with LHB coaches at present. Ahead of carrying out overhaul of the entire LHB coach, the workshop is now fully geared up to overhaul bogies of such type of coaches.
The workshop has also started overhaul of high horsepower new generation EMD locomotives, which can run up to maximum speed of 140 km per hour. It has transformed from maintenance to manufacturing unit, producing container wagons for the Container Corporation of India, besides manufacturing oil-fired locomotives for the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
Mysuru Railway Workshop modernized to cater to the surge in the demand for maintenance of LHB Coaches
The long-pending modernisation and upgrading of the railway workshop at Ashokapuram in the Mysuru city took shape with the commencing of the physical engineering work of the project during January 2018. The upgradation entailed creating new infrastructure at a cost of nearly Rs.35 crore towards capacity augmentation of the workshop which undertakes Periodic Over Hauling (POH) of railway coaches. POH of coaches is undertaken once in 12 or 18 months depending on the km clocked by the coach and is akin to servicing and maintenance with complete overhaul, including repairs and replacement of the parts that have a wear and tear.
The Central Workshop in the city is one of the two of such facility in South Western Railways, the other being at Hubli. The augmentation had shored up the Workshop’s capacity to take up more coaches for POH. At present, 70 coaches undergo POH each month and this will increase to 80 once the new facilities are in place. The workshop undertakes POH of both ICF-designed coaches that are used in conventional trains besides the German-designed Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches used in the rakes of Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains.
The workshop at Mysuru is the only facility to take up the POH of LHB coaches and the enhancement of the POH capacity also includes 14 AC and LHB coaches so as to cater to the Indian Railways long-term plan to switch over to LHB coaches completely from this fiscal and hence the workshop has also ramped up its capacity for POH of LHB coaches gradually. The new infrastructure includes new sheds and heavy-duty 60 tonne cranes to lift and shift the coaches which will obviate the need for procuring loco every time a coach needs to be moved. It will also reduce the time taken for POH. Construction of new carriage lift, heavy corrosion repair shop of 20 coaches capacity with provision of 10 BG tracks with a spacing of 10 meters apart for a length of 80 meters each among others are other facilities are created. In addition, a Rs. 18-crore proposal for a paint shop has also been in its final stages of allocation.
Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli:
The first of its kind in India and one of the best of its kind in South Asia, the foundation for the Modern Coach Factory at Raebareli was erected in November 7, 2012 by IRCON. The factory is fully modernised with minimum use of Human Labour. Most of the works are done through the high executive and modernised machinery and software which are specially designed for this work. Highly modernised computer programmes and softwares manufactured by Toshiba are being used by this factory for the production of the coaches. Unlike the previous two ones, this factory is exclusively being used for manufacturing of LHB coaches only.
Subsidiary Coach Factory, Haldia – an Auxiliary Unit of ICF/Perambur:
Apart than these there is one more subsidiary coach factory in Haldia. It is an Axillary Unit of ICF Chennai. It is known as ICF Haldia. Its phase one work has been completed and commissioned in the month of November last year. This factory is exclusively used for production of DEMU and EMU Coaches.
Moreover there are also four modernisation and maintenance factories in Hubli, Karnataka; Harnaut, Bihar; Lower Parel Mumbai and Mancheswar in Bhubneshwar.