Technology transfer spearheads Indian inter-city renewal

first_imgINTRO: IR operates around 29000 all-steel lightweight vehicles to a common basic design. Now the Rail Coach Factory is poised to launch an up-to-date inter-city coach under a technology transfer deal with Linke-Hofmann-Busch. R C Acharya reports on IR’s inter-city business that handled over 404million passenger train-km in 1995-96IN A BID to upgrade passenger coach designs to the latest international standards, Indian Railways has signed a co-operation agreement with Linke-Hofmann-Busch of Salzgitter in Germany covering supply of 24 coaches at a cost of Rs1·4bn. A fleet of 21 air-conditioned day coaches and three generator cars will be delivered by the end of 1998, with technology for further production transferred to IR’s Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala in the state of Punjab. RCF has produced over 6200 coaches to date, with current production levels of 1000 vehicles a year matching capacity at the Integral Coach Factory near Chennai. To be deployed initially on 160 km/h inter-city services, the LHB vehicles have been designed for a maximum speed of 225 km/h and are 2m longer than IR’s standard 21·5m ICF coach. With a ride index of 2·5 to 2·75, the new design is expected to be kinder on track and passengers than the ICF design with its ride index of around 3·5.Screw couplings and side buffers will give way to H-type centre buffer couplers, and the LHB coaches will have air-operated disc brakes and wheelslip control. The generator cars will each be equipped with two IR-standard 250 kW diesel sets, produced locally. Scheduled maintenance of the new-generation coaches will be undertaken by workshops and depots at locations including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta.Local input, export potential IR has already established a high-level team to monitor the technology transfer process. This includes not only the design and manufacture of bodyshells, but also local production of interior fittings and equipment. A vigorous programme has begun to identify local suppliers that will develop these components. Several Indian companies have already expressed keen interest in being involved in future coach production. This could include a major export drive in the short-term; in addition to producing a wide range of coaches for IR, metro cars for Calcutta and EMUs for IR’s suburban operations, ICF has already exported 400 vehicles to Thailand, Myanmar, Taiwan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nigeria, Mozambique and Tanzania. A healthy market Rail remains the preferred mode of long-distance transport at all levels of Indian society, thanks to low fares at one end of the market and comfortable overnight accommodation at the other. Fully air-conditioned inter-city services, with sleeping compartments in first class and reclining seats in second, first appeared in the 1950s under the Deluxe Express banner on IR’s prime Delhi – Bombay and Delhi – Calcutta corridors.Complementing the network of 130 km/h Rajdhani (capital) services linking Delhi with most state capitals from the 1970s, Shatabdi (century) expresses were introduced in 1985 to cover the short-haul daytime segment of the inter-city market. Each train comprises 12 air-conditioned Executive (first class) and Tourist (second) reclining-seat coaches with power supplied from separate generator cars.In place of the separate pantry car on a Rajdhani service, each Shatabdi coach has its own mini-pantry equipped to boil water for tea, heat pre-cooked food and store cold drinks. Shatabdi trains have proved popular with businessmen travelling at short notice as they offer an alternative to uncomfortable and unreliable road transport. They are now the market leader on many routes, including Delhi – Chandigarh and Bangalore – Mysore where city centre to city centre times of around 3h compare favourably with air and road. Over 30 cities, including major business and industrial centres, are now served by Shatabdi expresses, which provide the airlines with serious competition. With the last section of the 760 km Konkan Railway from Rohato Mangalore due to open last month for through passenger traffic, it is likely that business traffic in Goa and the coastal region of Karnataka and Kerala will witness a significant shift from overnight buses to rail. oCAPTION: The advent of air-conditioning has made generator cars a regular feature of modern Shatabdi and Rajdhani expressesCAPTION: Below left: The latest second class day coaches are fitted with airline-style face-to-back seating with fold-out trays for on-board meal serviceBelow: First class sleeping accommodation on AC trains is provided in four-berth compartmentslast_img

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