In the past 12-15 months, the Ministry of Railways (MoR) has launched several new, innovative, high-speed trains on Indian Railways’ (IR) network. These trains are equip-
ped with modern on-board facilities to enhance passenger comfort. In line with the ministry’s efforts to increase the running speed of trains on its tracks, IR has undertaken several initiatives to improve the average speed of existing freight and passenger trains as well introduce new semi-high-speed and high-speed trains. While the majority of these innovations have been indigenously built, the involvement of
foreign players in the rolling stock space is increasing. Plans are in place to launch more such high-speed trains as well as innovative coaches to improve IR’s operational efficiency.
IR’s carrying capacity has increased by about 4.52 times between 1952 and 2016. During 2015-16, the number of new trains that were introduced exceeded 130 and in 2016-17, at least 16 new trains were introduced. As of March 2017, 52 pairs of trains were speeded up and converted to the superfast category. While the fare of superfast trains has not been increased, there is a levy of a supplementary charge for these trains. The ministry has set a target of doubling the average speed of freight trains and increasing the average speed of superfast mail/express trains by 25 km per hour (kmph) in the next five years. Further, loco-hauled passenger trains will be replaced by diesel electric multiple units (DEMUs)/mainline electric multiple units (MEMUs) over the next five years.
Implementation of Mission Raftaar picks up
Mission Raftaar was launched in a bid to increase the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kmph over the next five years. In April 2016, IR had set up a cross-disciplinary Mobility Directorate to spearhead the mission.
Average speed is reckoned as one of the key indicators of railway productivity and efficiency in the operation and utilisation of assets. The mission targets the doubling of average speeds of freight trains and increasing the average speed of superfast mail/express trains in the next few years.
So far, conventional trains on the busiest Ghaziabad-Allahabad-Mughalsarai route have been replaced with MEMUs. Replacement works will now be carried out on other busy routes such as Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Howrah, Howrah-
Chennai, Chennai-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai (Diamond Quadrilateral routes along with diagonals). About 1,048 MEMUs and 136 DEMUs are required for this. In this regard, an action plan has been drawn up to ramp up the production of MEMU coaches to 400-500 per annum in the next three years as against the present level of 190 per year.
Under the mission proposal, all new freight rolling stock will be equipped with the twin pipe air brake system, which saves about 90 seconds on average every time brakes are applied. Besides, the existing 200,000 wagons will be retrofitted with the twin pipe brake system as well. The ratio of horsepower (HP) of the locomotive to the trailing load of the train will be increased from 0.94-1.13 to 1.5-2 in the next three years.
Deen Dayalu coaches rolled out
In 2016, IR rolled out its first modern unreserved coach, Deen Dayalu, with facilities such as potable drinking water, mobile charging points and bio-toilets, among others, to be used for mail and express trains. As per reports released in February 2017, the coaches are to be introduced on the Hassan-Yeshwantpur-Hassan Intercity Express.
First semi-high-speed train, Gatimaan Express, launched
In April 2016, the country’s first semi-high-speed train, Gatimaan Express, was launched on the 200 km Delhi-Agra stretch. The train runs at a speed of 160 kmph. The one-way fare for an air-conditioned (AC) chair car ticket between the two destinations has been fixed at Rs 690, while Rs 1,365 has been fixed for a seat in the executive class. Earlier, the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala had rolled out 17 Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches for the Gatimaan Express, at an average cost of Rs 25 million per coach. The coaches have several features such as automatic sliding doors with finger touch operations, sensor-based closing/opening, etc. The coaches are equipped with the 5,400 HP electric locomotive – WAP 5 – and balanced draft gear couplers for a smooth ride. The train has two executive AC chair car and eight AC chair car coaches.
Humsafar and Antyodaya trains flagged off
In February 2017, the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, delivered 22 coaches for the Antyodaya Express at Delhi’s Safdarjung station. During the same month, IR flagged off the first Antyodaya Express between Ernakulam and Howrah (via Salem, Katpadi and Visakhapatnam). The train has facilities such as cushioned luggage racks, multiple unit cables at both ends of the coach, vestibuled ends for the internal movement of passengers, potable drinking water dispensers, fire extinguishers with anti-theft locks, FRP (fibre-reinforced plastic) modular toilets, toilet occupation indication display boards, LED lights, etc.
In February 2017, IR also flagged off the Sri Ganganagar-Tiruchirapalli Humsafar Express (via Krishnarajapuram, Pune and Ahmedabad). Till date, three Humsafar Express trains have been introduced on IR’s network. The train is a fully air-conditioned three-tier service with facilities such as GPS-based passenger information systems, passenger announcement systems, fire and smoke detection and suppression systems, CCTVs, integrated Braille displays, LCD displays above compartment doors in the aisles, etc. In June this year, the MoR inspected the new rake of Humsafar Express with new features such as single-piece side lower berths and additional charging points.
Tejas Express starts route operations
The Tejas Express started its first journey from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Karmali station on May 22, 2017. The high-speed rake is capable of running at a speed of 200 kmph but due to track constraints will run at 160 kmph, outpacing the Shatabdis. The coaches have been manufactured at the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Tejas, hailed as an “aeroplane moving on the ground” by Central Railway’s top brass, boasts of amenities such as LED screens attached to seats, Wi-Fi, and tea/coffee vending machines. It also has CCTV cameras and fire and smoke detection facilities.
UDAY Express to be commissioned soon
IR is set to launch the Utkrisht Double-Decker AC Yatri [UDAY] Express in the next two months. Equipped with comfortable reclining chairs, its 120-seater AC coach will have large automatic food, tea and cold drink vending machines for passengers. The UDAY Express will be run on high-demand routes and the fare will be lower than that of 3 AC class in regular mail/express trains. There will be large LCD screens in every coach with Wi-Fi speaker systems.
Lightweight Talgo coaches to be launched soon
Meanwhile, in September 2016, Talgo, the lightweight trains from Spain, completed trial runs between New Delhi and Mumbai Central. The trial run was carried out at a maximum speed of 150 kmph, covering a distance of 1,384 km in 11 hours and 48 minutes. In contrast, the Rajdhani Express covers the same distance in around 16 hours. The nine-coach Talgo train consists of two executive class cars, four chair cars, a cafeteria, a power car and a tail-end coach for staff and equipment.
Innovations on the way
As a part of the MoR’s medium-term plan, an investment of about Rs 1.02 trillion is expected to be made in the rolling stock segment. Semi-high-speed trains will be operationalised along the Golden Quadrilateral. In May 2017, the MoR unveiled plans to roll out a high-power electric locomotive early next year which will be used to haul freight trains at twice the existing speed. About 800 such train engines will be manufactured over the next 11 years in a joint venture with France-based Alstom. The first locomotive, estimated to cost about Rs 300 million, will be assembled with components brought in from Alstom’s factories in France, with IR conducting a trial run by February 2018.
While the augmentation of the asset base is on the rise, maintenance is a concern. Operations of these new trains including Tejas are already fraught with several challenges. The substantial cost differential between conventional trains and the new ones is also a factor inhibiting the success of these efforts.
Going forward, the emphasis on higher axle load, higher speed, higher horsepower, better passenger amenities, and enhanced safety and security is expected to increase even further. The key focus areas will be the induction of high-speed coaches with 160-200 kmph speed; a complete switchover from ICF coaches to LHB coaches; LHB coaches in mail and express trains; and the induction of heavy haul (25 tonne or above axle load) freight bogies and wagons. According to industry experts, orders for the procurement of wagons are expected to be in the range of 18,000-19,000 units per annum for the three-year period between 2017 and 2020.