Western Railway, Central Railway cold war over AC train

Fed up of Western Railway getting access to all the latest technology first, Central Railway officials have asked for the air-conditioned rakes expected to roll into the city in the next few months to be inaugurated on the oft-ignored Harbour line first

With air-conditioned locals likely to roll into the city in the next few months, they have become the subject of a tug-of-war between the Western and Central Railways, with the latter demanding that they be inducted into the Harbour line first.

Also read: Mumbai to get 12 air-conditioned local trains

Work in progress on an AC train at Integral Coach factory in Chennai. File pic
Work in progress on an AC train at Integral Coach factory in Chennai. File pic

As per initial plans, the new AC rakes, which are being manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, were supposed to come to WR, with the first AC local being run on the Churchgate-Borivli route. Sources said WR had planned to run 12 services a day with the AC rake to begin with.

The interiors of an under-construction AC coach
The interiors of an under-construction AC coach

‘We’re here too’
Fed up of WR getting access to all the latest technology first, CR officials have asked for the AC rakes to be inaugurated on the Harbour line. “WR was the first to complete power conversion to 25000-volt AC, get the new Siemens locals in 2007 and then even the new Bombardier rakes.

All this time, CR, and especially the Harbour line, has been getting hand-me-downs and functioning with rakes that have reached the end of their working lives,” said a CR official.

This friction reached its peak in March this year, when Mumbai suburban finally inducted the ICF-manufactured Bombardier make of rakes, with WR getting first preference. This is when CR officials said that they would want the first AC local trains to run on their lines.

All set
Another argument being given by CR is that work on the Harbour line is in full swing and that it can be ready for the AC rakes by the time they are inducted, which, CR officials say will take more than a year. The conversion from 1,500-volt DC to 25,000-volt AC is underway and is set to be completed in the next year or so and the platforms are also being extended.

“Work on extending platforms for 12-car trains on Harbour line is steadily moving forward. Once that is complete, we can start thinking of additional coaches in rakes, which could be both normal or AC ones, as part of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP)-3,” said a CR official.

Moving signals
The trump card in CR’s deck, however, is the proposal of improving the signalling system on the CST-Panvel Harbour line by removing physical signal poles along the tracks and implementing Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC), wherein the signalling system would be fitted onto the local train itself, such that it would be a ‘moving signal pole’. This first-of-its-kind implementation is being proposed for the CST-Panvel and Panvel-Thane Harbour and Trans-Harbour lines.

The system is unique as it will calculate and analyse the location and distance of each train in front and also determine speed of the train and when to apply brakes, which would be a boon during peak hours as the headway (gap between two trains) can be reduced to two minutes instead of five minutes, which will enable them to run many more trains. This, according to CR officials, will ensure that they are actually better equipped than Western Railways to run the AC trains.

Sitting pretty
A WR official, however, said the AC trains should come to them as planned and that they have even begun drawing up a timetable for them.

Long wait
>> The first AC local train was expected in October but is likely to be commissioned only by March 2016
>> Each coach will have a 15 tonne air-conditioner, called a Roof Mounted Packaging Unit, which is nearly double the capacity of those installed in Rajdhani or Shatabdi trains
>> The first AC local train was announced in the Rail Budget for 2012-13 and it was expected to be in service by March 2013

Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is working on the 12-car extension on the Harbour line as well as the new signalling system, is yet to decide on the configuration of the AC trains.

Initially, around 153 AC coaches have been ordered from the ICF, which will allow for 12 12-car rakes with a few coaches to spare. Officials from MRVC said they are looking at the options of either running completely AC 12-car rakes on the Harbour or Western lines or adding 3 AC coaches onto existing 9-car rakes.

Official speak

Prabhat Ranjan, chief PRO, MRVC
We are working on a system called cab signalling, which is presently in the planning stage

WR spoke sperson
As per plans, the air-conditioned trains will come to us. In fact, we have already started working on a timetable for when they become operational.

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