In a bid to double its freight carrying capacity, the Nagpur division of Central Railway will go in for ‘Locotrol’ soon. Trials are being conducted at Ajni loco shed.
Locotrol includes two to four or so locos which can usually be coupled together to operate automatically, without any special provisions, with the crew manning only one of them.
Senior railway officials, who did want to be quoted, told TOI that three trials that were conducted have been partially successful. Ajni is one of the two sheds where this is being done. The other is Lallaguda in Hyderabad.
“There are some teething troubles and we will overcome them as engineers from Hyderabad are at work,” officials said.
The Nagpur division of Central Railway is already into long-hauling for transporting coal, containers and box wagons. wherein two freight trains with 59 wagons each – coupled together have one loco in the front and another at the rear. Both the locos have crew.
However, officials informed that under the new Locotrol system, there will be two or three locos in the train one at front and one in middle and another at the rear. The middle one will operate by remote control from front loco, so no extra drivers will be needed. It will allow for trains to become longer.
Officials said WAG 7 locos are being upgraded for the purpose. It will allow the loco to start with slightly higher loads. Another plan is to making the loco heavy so that wheels don’t slip easily and the loco can pull more load.
Even as Locotrol is seen as the advantage, the flip side is that freight trains are slow. They get overtaken by passenger trains very often. So the freight trains have to be put on a side track called a loop line so that the train coming up behind can overtake.
However, the standard length of a loop line across Indian Railways these days is around 600 metres, which is the length of a standard freight train.
“If the railways run double length train, they will need a loop line that is around 1,400 metres long. But the railways don’t have that. So even if they have the remote control technology there are limitations to how much it can be used,” a senior officer said.
What is a Locotrol
* The locos at the middle and rear of the train are radio-controlled by the crew at the head of the train
* This system is used in some places for heavy freight sections
* With multiple locos lashed up, there are cables that pass between successive locos, which carry the control signals between the manned loco and the others.
* In Locotrol, railways will need minimum drivers