Over the years, increasing population coupled with urbanisation has highlighted the need for increasing and upgrading rolling stock, comprising wagons, locomotives and coaches. To this end, in 2016-17, Indian Railways (IR) produced about 1,469 Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, 911 self-propelled coaches, 1,709 Integral Coach Factory (ICF) coaches and 191 other coaches. IR has been striving to bring innovation in the design of wagons for carrying commodities such as fly ash and agricultural produce. For instance, auto car wagons, general-purpose open wagons, fly ash wagons and BFNS wagons have been developed for the efficient loading and transportation of specific commodities.
Meanwhile, to enhance customer confidence in domestic rolling stock, efforts are being made to get International Railway Industry Standard certification. This certification is expected to lead to improvements in the standard of coaches and wagons, increasing comfort, security and safety.
In the past few years, IR has undertaken a number of initiatives such as design modifications and technical improvements. For instance, an air suspension system has been adopted in the existing coach design to avoid coach detachment on account of coil spring breakages. Another feature – “anti-climbing” – which involves the use of the centre buffer coupler in ICF coaches has been introduced to prevent coaches from overturning in the event of an accident. This feature allows the speed of the locomotive to decelerate in case of a derailment.
IR has also developed smart features – on-board condition monitoring systems (OBCMS) and online monitoring of rolling stock (OMRS) – for greater passenger safety. The OBCMS will be fitted on all coaches and wagons to monitor component vibration and temperature using rugged sensors. The OMRS is a wayside detector for identifying wheel and bearing defects. Other major initiatives include the introduction of camera vision-based automatic train inspection, fire detection and alarm systems and failure indication-cum-brake application devices. Further, to reduce travel time, the potential speed of LHB coaches has been upgraded to 200 kmph. A case in point is the Mahamana Express, inaugurated on September 22, 2017, which uses upgraded LHB coaches.
Another noteworthy feature introduced by IR is the installation of bio-toilets in coaches. This unique feature ensures hygiene and cleanliness in coaches and on tracks. A total of 22 green corridors fitted with bio-toilets are planned to be commissioned by 2019-20. Of these, six were commissioned in 2016-17. Besides, a total of 89,596 bio-toilets have been installed in 25,045 coaches so far. In 2017-18 (till August 31, 2017), 20,074 bio-toilets have been installed in 5,275 coaches.
While initiatives are being undertaken to ensure passenger safety, IR is also laying equal emphasis on the need to provide amenities which are at par with airports. To this end, IR has introduced various luxury coaches such as Antodaya, Tejas, Humsafar and Anubhuti and Vistadome – a transview tourist coach which is being operated in the Araku valley by Central Railway. Some of the key features of these coaches are global positioning system-based passenger information systems, LCD displays, dust-sealed gangways, automatic sliding main entrance plug door controlled by guards, “E-leather” upholstery, infotainment systems on individual seats and attendant calling facilities.
In the future, IR plans to undertake several initiatives for improving the standards of coaches and wagons. It has proposed to completely switch over to manufacturing LHB coaches, disconitnuing ICF coaches, by 2018-19. Further, it is also introducing disabled-friendly designs such as the use of Braille signage on coaches for the visually handicapped and automatic door closure mechanisms in coaches. In order to reduce overcrowding of coaches, IR has projected the requirement of 5,100 LHB coaches per year for the next 10 years. Besides, to save energy and avoid the infringement of revenue earning space in coaches, it is planning to deploy underslung diesel generator sets in all coaches. To address the issue of security of women, IR is planning to provide CCTV camera-based surveillance in all ladies compartments.
Based on presentations by J.S. Sondhi, additional director general, Research Design & Standards Organisation, and Pranjal Chandra, director, mechanical engineering, planning, Railway Board, at a recent India Infrastructure conference