Railways to safeguard coaches with fire-retardant material

New Delhi:  Against the backdrop of frequent fire mishaps, Railways are planning to set up a fire test laboratory to develop strong fire retardant materials for coaches and make AC compartment doors operable from both sides.

Besides, it is also testing a new technology to be installed in all Rajdhani trains which will bring a train to a halt automatically in case of smoke or fire. The Jammu Rajdhani will be the first train to have a fire alarm with an automatic braking system.

The new system will be a four-layer alarm system and will be integrated with the braking system. The train will come to a halt the moment the emergency braking system is activated on detection of fire.

Railways’ production units manufacturing AC coaches have been instructed to develop AC compartment doors which are operable from both inside as well as outside. Currently, AC coach doors can be opened only from inside the compartment.

This was one of the recommendations of the Commissioner Railway Safety following the fire accident in Howrah-Dehradun Express in November 2011, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Last month, 26 passengers were charred to death in an AC coach in the Bangalore-Nanded Express. Earlier, a fire in the Tamil Nadu Express had claimed 32 lives.

Seven persons were burnt to death in November, 2011 when a coach of Howrah-Dehradun Express train caught fire. Later, the fire spread to another coach and both the coaches were badly burnt.

Three coaches of Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express had caught fire near Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh on April 18, 2011.

New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani Express’ generator coach caught fire on the outskirts of New Delhi Railway Station in July, 2011.

“We are setting up a fire test laboratory at Research Development and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in Lucknow to have better understanding and testing the fire worthiness of various materials that go in the coach furnishing,” a senior Railway Ministry official said.

The lab will help us in developing better fire retardant materials for coaches, he said.

This is primarily aimed at giving reasonable evacuation by retarding initiation of fire and ensuring that in the case of spread of fire, loss of visibility due to smoke does not hinder evacuation.