Roadrailer Trains: Indian Railways new bet with opening of Dedicated Freight Corridors

Recently, the country’s first roadrailer train left from Tamil Nadu for Palwal in Haryana. Once the dedicated freight corridor is opened, many more roadrailer trains will be seen running on the tracks. A semi-trailer on the road and a wagon on rail, the cargo shipment vehicle can replace 50-55 lorries on road, reducing costs drastically.
The road-railer train, India’s first bi-model goods vehicle, has received approval from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for registering the vehicle with the state transport department. The road-railer unit (RRU), which will run as a semi-trailer lorry on road and as a wagon on rail, is aimed at shifting the cargo transport from road to rail, said officials.

NEW DELHI: With Indian Railways roadrailer train services starting between North and South India, these type of trains are now likely to be operated across the country. Once the dedicated freight corridor is opened, many more such trains will be seen running on the tracks, according to a Dainik Jagran report. Recently, the country’s first roadrailer train left from Tamil Nadu for Palwal in Haryana. The bogie and wagon or container of these trains are made of special designs, which can run on both road and railways as per requirement. Its container unit consists of eight truck wheels and four rail wheels, according to the report.

To make this run on the road, the unit is attached to the trailer. Then only the tire wheels work while the rail wheels keep hanging up. Upon reaching the railway terminal, the container is separated and is attached to the train. Following this, the rail wheels come down and the tires are turned upside. Roadrailer trains are quite common in developed countries. However, in India, the train was approved by the central government in the month of March this year and the operation was started recently, the report said. These trains are being manufactured as well as operated by Kirloskar Pneumatic Company Limited in collaboration with Indian Railways. The company has so far constructed as many as 100 roadrailer units and 20 rail bogie adapters.

According to sources, quoted in the report, the roadrailer trains will reduce the maintenance costs of roads. Also, it will minimize sound as well as air pollution. This is because a roadrailer train works equivalent to fifty trucks and its units make very little use of the road. These trains will prove to be of great advantage once the dedicated freight corridor is completed.

In addition to Indian Railways, the cooperation of state governments is also necessary for the operation of these trains, considering the fact that its dual-use units require the approval of State Transport Department.

RoadRailer, a bi-modal transportation unit, which runs as a semi-trailer on road and as a wagon on rail, was tested for the first time in India in the Chennai Division of the Southern Railway during August this year. This is in a bid to divert cargo traffic from road to rail and to offer seamless door-to-door goods transportation.

Goods are loaded on to a RoadRailer unit in a godown; it travels by road, and is then directly coupled with railway wagons at the terminal (at Melpakkam). The unit (with wheels attached as in a normal truck) will be moved by rail and decoupled from the wagon at the receiving end, and attached to a truck to be moved on to the final destination, sources said.

RoadRailers can provide door-to-door service by integrating speed and efficiency of the Railways with the flexibility of a road truck. It has been operational in the US since the mid-80s and has a long proven track record. There are over 7,000 RoadRailer units in operation with 14 terminal locations across Eastern US and Canada, said sources.

Kirloskar Pneumatic Co Ltd (KPCL), a Kirloskar Group Company, in association with the Railways, on Wednesday conducted a dry run between Melpakkam and Jolarpet (142 km one way), said TP Singh, Senior Divisional Operations Manager, Chennai Division, Southern Railway.

The bogies of the RoadRailer will be maintained by the Railways with each having a unique identification number. KPCL will bring in the investment and provide these specially designed RoadRailers for the Railways, which will operate and maintain them, Singh told. Sources said KPCL has developed RoadRailer terminals at Chennai and Palwal (Haryana), and will deploy two dedicated RoadRailer rakes. It has established a dedicated RoadRailer-manufacturing greenfield facility of over 165 acres in Nasik, which commenced production in 2011.

The company is looking for strategic partners in logistics and transportation companies, for marketing and sales of these services.

The partner will be a virtual owner of the reserved capacity of the rake, and provide first- and last-mile (road) operations of the RailRailers, sources said.

Each road-railer unit has eight lorry wheels and is coupled together with the help of adopter bogies. Each coupling bogie has got four rail wheels.  The capacity of each wagon (also called RRU)  is about 30  tons and upto 50 wagons can be operated for a trip.

Short points

  • Road-railer unit will act as semi-trailer on road and as a wagon on rail
  • Each unit has eight truck wheels on tandem axle and four rail wheels
  • The semi- trailers are coupled together using rail adaptor bogies and create road-railer unit
  • Two rakes of road-railer units manufactured
  • The distance between two road-railer units will be 15 cm
  • The bimodel vehicle is cleared for operation upto 100 km
  • Maximum number of coaches permitted is 50 a trip and length of the train should be 632.5 m
  • Railways will earn Rs 22 lakh per trip.
  • The Southern Railway transports 3 crore tons of cargo and its turnover remains at Rs 2500 crore a year
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