Kolkata Metro to procure new rolling stock to replace old rakes that met end of life

कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA): Six Metro Railway rakes that have passed their extended use-by dates or will do so in a few days may have to run one more year as the first replacement will arrive only in April next year.

The authorities are against withdrawing the rakes without rolling out replacements to ensure that the five-minute frequency in service is maintained.

All six rakes are as old as Metro itself — 30 years. Engineers are inspecting the rakes to find out whether they are fit to ferry people one more year.

“The engineers think that though the body and the undercarriage of the rakes have suffered wear and tear, it can still run for another year. However, they are yet to submit a formal report,” said a senior Metro official. “We want at least two of the six rakes to continue so that the five-minute frequency can be maintained.”

The Metro authorities had approached the railways-owned Research Designs and Standards Organisation, in Lucknow, to extend the lifespan of seven rakes for a second time. The organisation had granted permission to run the rakes for two years after overhauling them.

The deadline for six of the rakes has lapsed, while that for the last will lapse towards the end of this month. One of the rakes has been grounded.

The Metro fleet comprises 26 rakes, of which 13 are air-conditioned. To run trains at five-minute intervals, Metro rail needs at least 21 rakes on a given day.

“If the six rakes are withdrawn, the strength will be down to 20. Then we can’t send three rakes for routine maintenance everyday. In the absence of regular maintenance, the rakes will develop snags more frequently.”

The rakes have suffered extensive damage from years of carrying passengers beyond capacity.

Railway ministry sources said the Metro authorities had been writing to the Railway Board for two years, asking for new rakes. “They had written several letters for new rakes,” said an official.

But it was only a couple of months ago that the board had placed orders for 10 air-conditioned rakes with the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Perambore, near Chennai. Officials said the first train is unlikely to roll out before April 2015.

Board sources attributed the delay in placing the orders to political factors. “The priorities changed after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress pulled out of the UPA II government in 2012. The party had controlled the ministry in the UPA II regime for around three years,” said an official.

The Metro authorities had earlier this month requested the minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, to expedite the process of providing new rakes for the sake of safe and smooth running of Metro.

Sinha, in turn, asked the board to speed up the production of the rakes.

However, despite the initiative, the new rakes are unlikely to come anytime soon.

“We have placed orders with a Hyderabad firm for electrical equipment for the new rakes. It’ll take around five months for the equipment to arrive. The first rake cannot be readied before March or April next year,” said an official of the coach factory in Perambore.

He said the equipment were being imported from Austria and Germany. “A month before the equipment arrive, we will start manufacturing the shells. Once the assembling is over, the rake will undergo a series of trial runs.