Western Railway gets a bigger, better ride for its commuters

Oct 19, 2013, 05:59 IST | Shashank Rao

More space. More air. More handlebars. The Bombardier-made revised version of the local, just in from ICF, Chennai, promises commuters all this and more

Early next year, railway commuters can look forward to a swish new ride. A prototype of a new train has rolled into the cityfresh from the Integrated Coach Factory, Chennai, holding out the promise of a better experience than the existing locals on 74 counts, or so claim its creators.

The new 12-car rake has more space. Its super dense crush load -- railway jargon for peak hour capacity -- is a good 6,000-odd people, as opposed to the 4,200 ferried by the local of the day on an average. 

Hot new wheels: The 12-car rake is currently parked in the Virar car shed, and will undergo a string of test runs

In a city where rail commuters hang by doorframes during rush hours, travel on rooftops, squeeze out a fourth seat on chairs built for three, go two stations in the opposite direction to hop in a moving train just to get a spot, and practically trample fellow commuters, the promised legroom cannot hurt.

New trappings
The train also provides a wider gap between seats. It has double-holding bars, grab handles below baggage racks, a two-pronged steel rod at doors -- all implements in providing more room, ways and means to retain balance while travelling. The gear will come in handy, considering the frequent cases of people falling off running trains. It also promises commuters more fresh air -- 16,000 cu m every hour, to be precise -- with a ventilation groove running along the roof, and larger windows.

Sources said that around 74 alterations -- both internal and external -- have been made in the new model. “But there are only 4-5 changes would be visible to the commuters,” said Prabhat Ranjan, chief public relations officer, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which procured the rake on behalf of the railways.

While the ICF’s detailing says the new trains can accommodate 1,168 people on the seats and 4,862 straphangers without people being pushed out of t he doors, Western Railway officials do not want to commit to any static number.

“We are yet to actually gauge the total capacity enhancement, though there could be an increase in the carrying capacity (of the new train) by at least 10 per cent,” said a senior railway official. A prototype of the train is parked at the Virar car shed, which in the coming days would undergo countless inspections and rigorous trials.

If the trials withstand the scrutiny of all the officials, WR will move to get 72 more of these trains in the coming years, other than the one already ordered and likely to arrive after Diwali.

Second one in waiting
After the first train pulled up at the Virar shed arrived from Chennai amid protests over Telangana issue and several halting and diversions; the second train would make its journey for Mumbai soon. The second rake will leave Chennai by the end of this month and is expected to arrive in Mumbai by November 10-12. Once the two rakes are in Mumbai, the railway officials and commissioners of railway safety will conduct several test runs. The trials will include oscillation tests wherein empty train would ply and authorities will check its sway and if the sides of the trains collide against poles and base of platforms. They will also check the technical aspects during the same time. 

The added frills
>> Stainless steel coach and sidewall
>> Roof-mounted forced ventilation all along the ceiling that will supply 16,000 cubic metres per hour of fresh air, without sucking in rainwater
>> Passenger information system on both sides for display of information
>> PU Foam-cushioned seats in first class and polycarbonate seats in second class
>> Wider and bigger windows
>> Smooth sliding doors
>> Double-holding handles and rods

Track-ready? not before 3 months
A long series of nods will have to be procured from a bunch of authorities involved in the production of the rake, before it can make its way on the suburban tracks.  “It will take at least three months for these trains to get all permissions,” said a railway official. These include nods from the MRVC, the Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) which approved the train, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), the ICF technical staff, and finally, officials from Bombardier, manufacturer of the train’s electric equipment.  

6,000 Upwards, the capacity of trains during peak hours

75 lakh Number of suburban commuters on Western and Central Railways 

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