Inadequate planning and deliberation by the railways in procurement of new rakes can potentially slow down the strides the suburban network aims to make in providing commuters with faster and more comfortable travel in the days to come.
Rs 72 crore has been spent by Western Railway (WR) for acquiring three rakes that would run exclusively on 25,000-volt alternating current (AC), the first of which became operational last week. The problem is that these locomotives would be able to run at a maximum speed of 80 kmph, at least initially, which is 20-30 kmph slower than other trains in the suburban section. The new rakes have been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai and have been sold for Rs 24 crore each.
By the end of January 2013, WR aims to get the other two rakes. All three would run on 25,000-volt AC power, instead of the present locomotives that work on both 1,500-volt DC and DC/AC power systems. Authorities plan to procure seven more rakes in another four months.
But there is a sense of confusion. “We will be looking at getting feedback from female commuters about the rake, which has been in operation from December 25. If we get over 50,000 negative comments from travellers in teh next few days then we would make changes,” said Mahesh Kumar, general manager, WR. However, these alterations wouldn’t be replicated in the forthcoming 72 twelve-car trains under Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), purchased from Bombardier.
The main modifications in the new ICF rakes are evident in the first bogie, meant for ladies. The luggage compartment from this coach has been shifted to the carriage behind it, and there are fewer entry-exit points, as the middle doors are shut completely. That space is occupied by electric equipment and motors, a part of which is placed in the underframe of this ladies compartment. This also means space crunch, and fewer doors will create problems during peak hours.
Officials also claim that speeds of these rakes wouldn’t go beyond 80 kmph because of technical issues in the cables carrying 25,000 volts. “Normally, these trains undergo trials before being allowed to run at 100 kmph,” said a senior WR representative.
As there are smaller compartments inside the coach, this would also create problems in policing. Railway police is already short-staffed and women commuters quite often complain about the security situation. “We have asked the railway police force to intensify presence between 8 pm and 1 am every day after the Delhi incident,” said a WR official.
Sources say if female commuters don’t like the arrangement and complain on the helpline number 9004477777 through SMS, then a general bogie will be moved forward and the ladies coach will be placed behind it.
1,174 Present seating capacity in a 12-car train
1,242 Capacity of a new ICF rake