More than 160 years after the first train ran on the Indian Railways, the ministry, for the first time, is ready to give up its biggest technical insistence — the need to run all trains on the broad gauge.
dna has learnt that the railway ministry has agreed to have the Rs19,513-crore Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor on the four feet and eight-and-a-quarter inches standard gauge as opposed to the five feet and six inches broad gauge.
With this change, the width of the eight-coach trains on the elevated corridor will come down from 3.66 metres to 3.2 metres which, incidentally, is the width of coaches of the Delhi Metro.
In India, long-distance broad gauge coaches are 10 feet and six inches wide. Mumbai’s local trains are an exception even in the broad gauge family with a width of 12 feet, thanks to the massive crowding the suburban system sees. While a standard gauge coach accommodates less people, it navigates bends better and can also move at high speeds far better than the broad gauge coaches.
The move comes on the back of concerns that the Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar project, which will need anything between 25 and 35 rakes to have a full-fledged daily service, will be left handicapped with respect to the purchase of trains as the world’s biggest manufacturers of trains now produce just standard gauge coaches.
Officials said getting Indian manufacturers like Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory to produce that many trains in a short span of time will be a tough ask.
Speaking to dna, Girish Pillai, executive director (infrastructure and public private partnerships), railway board, refused to confirm or deny the news. “It is a PPP project with a complete new alignment. So, there are lots of discussions going on over several things. It is early days; I wouldn’t like to say a decision has been taken either way on which gauge to use,” said Pillai.