Western Railway turns a new leaf

Feb 16, 2012, 07:57 IST | Shashank Rao

With the oldest train on the network shunted out on February 4, most of the locomotives now running on the Churchgate-Virar route are practically new

With the oldest train on the network shunted out on February 4, most of the locomotives now running on the Churchgate-Virar route are practically new

With great 'power' comes great responsibility. Western Railway (WR) seems to have acknowledged that, especially with its historic switch on February 5 from the 1,500-volt Direct Current (DC) to 25,000-volt Alternate Current (AC) traction system.

Farewell! The last DC electric multiple unit (EMU) train being taken off the
tracks by Western Railway on February 4.

The previous day also marked the end of one of the oldest trains on the network. This is only likely to benefit the nearly 33-lakh suburban commuters on the Churchgate-Virar stretch, as now almost all the locomotives running on the network are recent acquisitions.

The 9-coach DC local that went off tracks had run for 24 years, a year short of its maximum term. However, about two years ago WR had coaches running that had exceeded 30 years on tracks. Now, if WR officials are to be believed, then of the 83 trains that are part of the fleet, coaches of 76 locomotives are in the age bracket of 0-5 years. This can only mean that most of the trains being operated on the network are in good condition, with plenty of shelf life left.

Same old, same old
"Nearly two years ago there were 13 coaches that were over 30 years old. This made it more important for us to constantly keep tabs on their maintenance and ensure that we didn't miss the management schedules," said a senior WR official, on condition of anonymity.

To make matters worse, back in mid-2010 there were two coaches that were over 35 years old, while 388 coaches had been used for less than 25 years. Railway officials calculate the age of coaches and then club them to 9-car or 12-car trains. Now the balance has shifted with over 900 coaches of less than five years, and only around 80 in the 5-20 years bracket.

WR officials claim that periodic maintenance of any coach of a train happens once every 1.5 years, although they undergo regular checks every three months. "On an average, the oldest coaches of these trains might not have run for over 15 years. 76 trains are less than 5 years old," said WR chief PRO, S Chandrayan.

Well stocked
WR runs 76 trains on the 60-km route of Churchgate-Virar, although it has 83 locomotives in its fleet. Officials claim the remaining seven replace those that have to undergo maintenance as and when required.

Not all problems have disappeared with the arrival of new trains on tracks. Highly placed sources in railways claim that quality of the violet-white trains is not up to the mark.

"Rusted spots and corrosion are visible on the interiors of the coaches. Even though they undergo timely maintenance, they lose that new look pretty quickly," said a senior official, on condition of anonymity .

Time-and-again commuters have complained about loose handles, bolts and decrepit seats on trains. "They don't have sufficient manpower to maintain these many trains. So, at times there are maintenance issues," said Subhash Gupta, member, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee.

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