Rajdhani Mishap: Toll low as high-tech LHB Coaches absorbed derailment shocks

पटना Patna (PNBE): The toll in the derailment of the Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express remained low not by chance but because of modern coach technology.

The Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches of the showpiece train played the real saviour. Considered “anti-telescopic”, they did not turn turtle after jumping off the rails in the small hours on Wednesday between Chhapra Kacheri and Goldenganj stations. Nor did they climb on each other because of their anti-climbing feature and advanced couplings, saving several lives.

Four persons were killed in the accident in the Sonepur division of the East Central Railway. Twenty-one persons suffered injuries.

A member of the engineering department of the railways attributed the low casualty figures in the accident to the LHB coaches of the Rajdhani Express, comparatively safer during accident. These coaches, lighter than conventional ones, are made of stainless steel and the interiors are done up with aluminium, the railway official posted at the Hajipur railway zonal headquarters told.

The officer said: “Had the train not been equipped with LHB coaches, the severity of the accident would have been much higher. These coaches have automatic couplers to join two coaches unlike the conventional ones, where one needs to go inside the coach and move through the vestibule to uncouple two compartments. These advanced couplers can be easily uncoupled from the outside.”

He said the coaches of the ill-fated Rajdhani Express stuck to the ground soon after the derailment instead of capsizing or rolling over. As a result, majority of the passengers escaped unhurt, he added.

The rakes of Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto Express and some other superfast trains comprise LHB coaches, equipped with advance couplers and anti-climbing features. The LHB coaches used in Indian trains were first developed by Linke Hofmann Busch — a German manufacturing company now a part of Alstom. The name Linke Hofmann Busch became defunct in 2009 when it became ALSTOM Transport Germany GmbH.

India initially imported 24 air-conditioned LHB coaches from Germany. The Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala started manufacturing them after technology transfer.

The special investigation team (SIT) constituted to probe the derailment of the 11 LHB coaches and the engine of Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express has sent a questionnaire to the railway authorities to ascertain the cause of the accident.

About LHB Coaches:

Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches are the passenger compartments 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 produced by Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala, India. They have been used since 2000 on the Indian Broad Gauge (1676 mm) network of Indian railways. Initially, 24 air conditioned coaches were imported from Germany that would be used for the Shatabdi Expresses, after which the Rail Coach Factory started manufacturing after technology transfer.  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 23.54m and a width of 3.24m means a higher passenger capacity, compared to conventional rakes. The tare weight of the AC chair car was weighed as 39.5 Tons.

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 can produce a maximum noise level of 60 decibels while conventional coaches can produce 100 decibels. Each LHB coach costs between Rs 15 million to 20 million, whereas the power car which houses a generator costs about 30 million.

History

During 1993-94, Indian Railways decided to look for a new passenger coach design which would be lighter and capable of higher speeds compared to the existing rakes. The main features of the Railways’ specification were India’s need for high speed light weight coaches to run in Indian Railways within the present infrastructure i.e. specific railway and track conditions along with the specific environmental conditions in India and the operating speed of 160 km/h. It was decided by the Railways that the design would first be tried in the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala (RCF), and upon successful completion of this trial, it would be tried in the Integral Coach Factory in Perambur.

In 1995, after a global selection process, Alstom-LHB received the order from Indian Railways to design and develop a new passenger coach under a transfer of technology agreement. As part of the order, Alstom-LHB had to execute two contracts, one for the supply of “Light Weight High Speed Coaches for Broad Gauge” which includes the development, design and manufacture of 19 AC 2nd Class Chair Cars, 2 AC Executive Class Chair Cars and 3 Generator-cum-Brake vans and the other contract for the “Transfer of Technology” which includes the transfer of technology for design and manufacturing, the training of Indian Railways personnel in the premises of the manufacturer and the technical assistance at RCF during the start of production. Out of the 24 coaches imported from Germany, all of them mostly being Air Conditioned chair cars, the first lot were used for New Delhi-Lucknow Shatabdi Express on a trial basis. It didn’t turn out be successful as the coaches’ wide windows were targets of mischief and stone-pelting. Railways had to use sealing tapes to tape up the bruised windows. When these rakes were brought into service, couplers came unstuck and the data collected from the passenger feedback showed that the air conditioning was not “very effective”. They were withdrawn from service and after attending to the problems, Railways reintroduced them on the New Delhi-Lucknow Shatabdi Express and proved successful.

The RCF began to manufacture other variants of LHB design like the air conditioned first class, AC 2 tier sleeper, AC 3 tier sleeper, hot buffet (pantry) car etc., from 2001 to 2002, and rolled out its first rake in December 2002. The first such rake was introduced for Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express in December, 2003. Up to March 2011, 997 LHB coaches were produced by the RCF.  All of these coaches are being used in premier super fast express trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express and have been offering better passenger comfort. Soon, all the Duronto trains will be equipped with LHB coaches.

Usage

Indian Railways have decided to replace the conventional air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned Integral Coach Factory made coaches with the LHB coaches in all the trains by the end of 2016. Presently LHB coaches are seen mostly in premium air-conditioned trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains owing to high cost of manufacture  but slowly non-air-conditioned trains like Poorva Express and Purushottam Express are also upgraded with non-air-conditioned LHB coaches manufactured at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, Punjab.

Production

Annual production of LHB coaches is around 400 per year for year 2013-2014.

  • During 2010-11, RCF Kapurthala produced 300 coaches. During 2012-13, the total number of coaches that were produced was 1680, while in 2013-14, RCF was able to increase the production to 1701 coaches.
  • During 2013-14, Integral Coach Factory produced 25 LHB coaches. It plans to increase its manufacturing capacity of LHB coaches. It has set a target to manufacture 300 LHB coaches in 2014-15 and reach a capacity of 1000 LHB coaches by 2016-17.
  • The planned capacity of Rail Coach Factory, Raebareli is 1000 LHB coaches per year. The plant is yet to become fully operational.
  • A rail coach factory has been sanctioned at Palakkad, Kerala in public private partnership mode for production of LHB coaches. Once completed, this factory would produce 400 coaches annually.
  • Rail coach factory is sanctioned by government and is to be setup at Kolar, Karnataka in February 2014. The planned capacity of this plant is 500 LHB coaches per year for phase-1 and additional capacity of 500 coaches per year in phase-2.

Types

  • LGS = Second class self-generating
  • LSCN = Second class 3-tier sleeper
  • LWACCW = AC2 Air-conditioned 2-tier sleeping-car (52 berths)
  • LWACCN = AC3 Air-conditioned 3-tier sleeping-car (72 berths)
  • LWCBAC = Air-conditioned pantry/kitchen/buffet car
  • LWFAC = AC1 Air-conditioned first class sleeping-car (24 berths)
  • LWFCZAC = Air-conditioned executive chair car (56 seats)
  • LWLRRM = Luggage/generator/brake van
  • LWSCZAC = Air-conditioned chair car (78 seats)
  • LWSCZ = Chair car

Technical details

Bogies

The FIAT-SIG Bogie is a welded H frame type based on the Eurofima standard. The wheel base is 2560 mm, the wheel diameter new 915 mm and at maximum wear 845 mm. Main features of the bogie are primary suspension with articulated arms and coil springs, secondary suspension of integral flexicoil type with coil springs and rubber pads on top and bottom, anti-roll bar, vertical and transverse shock absorbers and anti-hunting dampers. For braking on each axle two disc brakes with 640 mm diameter, brake cylinders and automatic slack adjuster are provided.

Couplers

The automatic center buffer coupler of AAR tight lock type at the coach end has a support frame which provides an anti-climbing protection. The coupler can be opened from the side by a lever. The design allows the use of screw coupler instead of center buffer coupler. Therefore a fixing plate for buffers is also provided. The inter-vehicle coupler for the supply of the 750 V from the generator car is located below the under-frame. Due to the moving situation 4 brake hoses are to be used at the coach end which are brought to two hoses behind the coupler.

Air Conditioning

Each coach is equipped with two compact roof-mounted air-conditioning units which have a cooling capacity of approximately 2×22.5 KW and a heating capacity of 2×6 KW and which are controlled by a microprocessor. The operating voltage of the unit is 3 phase, 415 V, 50 Hz. Each unit has 2 refrigerant circuits with hermetic refrigerant compressors, condensers with Copper pipes and Aluminium fins, evaporators and condenser fans.

The fresh air comes in through the air inlet of the AC unit. The conditioned air is transported in heat insulated aluminum ducts mounted below the roof and distributed through the perforated ceiling into the passenger room. The return air flows back through openings above the compartment door to the AC unit. The entrance area, toilets and pantry are connected to the exhaust air system.

Doors

The entrance doors are made of the same steel as the car body shell. They are flush with the sidewall to allow easy car-washing. Two handholds and three fixed steps are provided to enter the coach. The door inward opening to the entrance area is covered from inside with a FRP panel. Above the door is an entrance light. The entrance steps are closed by a foldable cover. An inside handhold allows easy entry and exit. An ashtray is also provided.

Water supply and disposal

There are two connected fresh water tanks, which are made of stainless steel, with a total capacity of 1370 liters for the 3 toilets. The water level is indicated on one tank on each side. The filling can be made from both sides by one filler for both tanks. Three intermediate water tanks, each with a capacity of 30 liters, made out of stainless steel are located above the toilets. Two centrifugal pumps located in a stainless steel casing at the under frame supply the water to the tanks. One of the 415 V pumps is always kept running, while the other is kept on standby. After each switch off the other pump will work.

Below each toilet a 40 liters waste water tank is provided in which the toilet waste is collected when the coach is at standstill. It gets opened with a pneumatically operated sliding valve when a defined speed is reached. The junction box for the inter-vehicle coupler is visible.

Toilets

The coaches are equipped with “controlled discharge toilet system” (CDTS).   By the means of this system, a toilet in the coach would become functional only when the speed of the coach crosses 30 kmph, which is said to help in avoiding the soiling of the track at the railway stations.  Both oriental (squat) and western styles of toilets are provided. One side of the toilet is provided with a wash basin with water tap and sensor button, a soap dispenser, a mirror, an ash tray and a waste bin. On the other side there is the toilet itself, a water tap with mug, a handhold, the toilet paper holder and the sensor button for the toilet flush. The window in the toilet can be opened in the upper half. The toilet doors are of folding type to use the available space to an optimum.

Pantry

Each vehicle is equipped with a pantry for storing cold and hot meals which are to be served to the passengers at their seats. In the gangway between the passenger room door and the entrance is on one side the pantry and on the other side the storage area. The pantry is closed by a double leaf sliding door and the storage area by roller shutters. On the left side, a 15 liters water boiler, an 11 liters soup-warmer, a sink and racks are provided. The other side is equipped with three hot cases, the bottle cooler, the refrigerator and the deep freezer for the 78 passengers. The storage area gives space for racks and also for the serving trolley.

Other Equipment

On the outside wall of the toilet a waste bin and a fire extinguisher are located. The fire extinguisher on the power panel end is filled with carbon dioxide, the one on the other end with water. The vestibule is of UIC rubber type. The vestibule door is a double leaf stainless steel sliding door. On the left side the socket of the local 415 V supply is located. A 60 kVA transformer with copper winding transforms the power given by the generator car from 750 V to 415 V. All brake control equipment is centrally located in a brake container. A main brake pressure reservoir of 125 liters and a service pressure reservoir of 75 lit are provided.

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