Mumbai: Major glitch in AC train puts Central Railway in the hot seat

Having missed the first deadline on May 16, railway engineers are racing against time to fix a major glitch before the new June 30 deadline to commence trial runs

As Mumbaikars wait impatiently for the city’s first ever AC train to roll into service, they’ll at least be sure that the air conditioners work like magic. But while commuters can look forward to a cool ride, railway engineers are currently on the hot seat as they race against time to fix all glitches in the new rake parked at the Kurla carshed. Central Railway has already missed the May 16 deadline to begin trial runs of the AC train, and the engineers cannot afford to miss the next deadline on June 30 as well.

When mid-day took a sneak peek yesterday, the AC was on in full blast and the doors were partly open as engineers tried to figure out how to make all the functions work simultaneously
When mid-day took a sneak peek yesterday, the AC was on in full blast and the doors were partly open as engineers tried to figure out how to make all the functions work simultaneously

When mid-day hopped on for a sneak peek yesterday, the heavy-duty air conditioners were cooling the coaches on full blast as over a dozen engineers put their heads together to figure out how to solve the latest issue that had cropped up.

Over the last 20 days, the engineers had already figured out how to address a few small issues, but this time, a major glitch has left them scratching their heads.

Every 12-car train has four motor coaches that draw power from the overhead lines to drive the rake. The motor coaches in the new rake also have additional machines that control the AC and the automatic doors. All three functions — powering the train’s motion, switching on the AC and opening or closing the doors — should be synchronised. Currently, however, electricity is not being distributed to the machines simultaneously, leading to malfunction.

Tech glitch
“We found out that the electric supply is going to only one machine at a time, which means only one or the other function will work at a time, unless this problem is rectified. Even for the trial run, the entire system needs to work seamlessly, at the press of a button,” said a senior CR official on condition of anonymity.

“This is the most important aspect of running the AC rake. Other smaller issues have been tackled,” said R Rajanbabu, general manager of Strukton, which is making improvements to the software.

Officials confirmed that such glitches had become a headache for them, as they are still struggling to fix them, over a month after the train arrived in Mumbai. In fact, even the Railway Board in Delhi questioned them about the delay.

“We will have to place an inductor that will synchronise electric supply, which will take another three months,” said another CR official.

Hurdles crossed
>> When the AC rake first came to Mumbai, the first thing the engineers did was to check whether the automatic doors and the AC were functioning properly. Initially, the high-power AC units — all 360 tonnes — were vibrating heavily and overcooling the coaches. Officials corrected both problems: There is now zero vibration and the temperature is set at a comfortable 22 degrees.

>> The temperature will also automatically change depending on the commuter traffic inside the coaches. Each coach has two 15-tonne AC units, and if it gets too cold, one of them will go dormant.

>> Engineers also prepared for technical failures that might affect the AC. If the AC switches off, the trains blowers will switch on and run for up to six hours.

>> Automatic doors were malfunctioning, but were repaired.

>> Earlier, there was just one console for the Motorman to open and close the doors, but a second console was added for the Guard, who can operate each door individually.

>> The train is also fitted with a red button that will function as the passenger feedback system, so commuters can speak to the motorman or the guard.

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