Railways, IIT-Madras tie up to power AC coaches with solar energy

Soon, solar power will be used to cool air conditioned train coaches. The Integral Coach Factory has kicked off a project in association with IIT Madras to design coaches that will draw power from the sun for interior lighting and cooling.

This is the first time the railways is attempting to tap solar power. Being the world’s biggest railway system, it plans to use innovative technology to tap alternative sources of energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuel and the power grid. The railways sees a huge demand for air conditioned coaches in the coming years. And this demand could lead to increased spending on diesel to power the coaches. In other countries, too, it is rare to use solar power on trains.

There are two ways to source power for air conditioning—power cars that use diesel and AC coaches that generate power from the speed of a train. Power cars are attached to trains like Shatabdi Express, Duronto and double decker trains while AC coaches of other trains have self-generating systems.

“We have asked IIT Madras to find ways to tap solar power and use it for interior lighting and air conditioning. An MoU was signed a month ago. We have started preliminary discussions with professors to work out different modalities to develop a feasible model to use solar power in running trains,” said a senior ICF official.

If the project is successful, the railways may be able to dispense with power cars. “We are yet to know if power cars can be eliminated because we have to find out the extent of power that can be drawn from solar panels and how much of that can be stored effectively. These issues will be looked at by the developers,” he added.

The new technology will be incorporated in the coaches designed by ICF. It is not clear how long it will take to complete the project.

Powering an air conditioned coach efficiently has become a huge challenge as trains run across different climate zones during a single trip. The air conditioning system has tripped on many trains, including the recently-introduced double-decker service between Chennai and Bangalore. Last year, passengers on a Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram train suffered when the air conditioning failed.

AC compartments often have trouble with the battery system needed to power the self-generator fixed near the wheels of the coach.

ICF has already turned to renewable energy to meet its needs and has set up a few wind mills to generate power in the southern districts of the state. The power is now being supplied to the grid.


Railways opts for standard gauge first time in 160 yrs

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.


Infrastructure at rail workshop in Mysore being ramped up

The infrastructure at the Central Railway Workshop in Mysore city is being ramped up for undertaking the periodic overhauling and maintenance of Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB) coaches that constitute the rakes of the Shatabdi and the Rajdhani trains.

This is part of the capacity building of the railway workshops across the country as the Indian Railways plans to substitute the conventional Integral Coach Factory-designed coaches with the German technology-based LHB coaches for most Indian trains in the long run.

“The Mysore workshop has been upgraded to handle the LHB coaches and 29 such coaches have been overhauled here since October 2012. The workshop’s installed capacity at present is to take up maintenance of eight LHB coaches a month or 96 coaches a year. This is in addition to the periodic overhauling and maintenance of 70 ICF-designed coaches a month, of which 10 will be AC coaches. The workshop also takes up intermediate overhauling of 40 coaches a month,” Mr. U. Subba Rao, chief workshop manager, said.

Though the LHB coaches are expensive (One LHB coach costs about Rs. 1.8 crore while an for an ICF coach costs Rs. 65 lakh), they are found to be more efficient and capable of higher speeds ranging from 160 kmph to 200 kmph and reckoned to be safer while providing greater ride comfort.

The LHB coaches at present are air-conditioned, the Railways has designed non-AC LHB coaches as well and they will supplant the conventional ICF coaches in future, according to Mr. Subba Rao.

V. Suresh, senior section engineer, Bogie Repair Shop, said there were nearly 100 LHB coaches operating out of the Bangalore Railway Division but as Bangalore does not have a railway workshop, infrastructure had been put in place at the Central Workshop at Ashokapuram here for coach maintenance.

“The load will be shared between the Mysore and the Hubli workshops, and we have presented a proposal for capacity upgrading,” Mr. Rao added.


The staff here have designed a hydraulic press, reckoned to be the most important machinery for coach maintenance. While a few testing equipment have been procured, there are other requirements such as a surface traverser for shifting coaches, which costs around Rs. 3.5 crore, he said. A proposal has been submitted for the construction of a new building at a cost of Rs. 5 crore.

Conventional ICF coaches require periodic overhauling once every 18 months against once in 72 months for LHB coaches. The workshop staff have been sent for training at Lower Parel in Mumbai and at the Jagadhri workshop in Haryana where they have been working on LHB coaches for almost 10 years, according to Mr. Rao.

The Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala, Punjab, manufactured 460 LHB coaches last year and the ICF at Perambur, Tamil Nadu, was scaling up the LHB production. The new factory established at Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh, was exclusively meant for the production of LHB coaches, Mr. Rao added.


New rakes for suburban sector getting tested

A smartly painted rake has been attracting the attention of motorists who travel on the road over bridge near Tambaram Sanatorium railway station. Currently, at the far end of the yard that is very close to the suburban and main lines, it is among the new rakes sanctioned by the Railway Board for operation in the southern line of the Chennai Suburban rail network.

The new rake has been manufactured at Integral Coach Factory, Perambur, and has been brought to Tambaram where it will be tested and given final touches at the Electric Multiple Unit Car Shed before being made operational on the suburban sector.

Striking Colours

Unlike the current rakes, most of which have either a green-yellow or green-maroon combination, the new rake has come up with a delightful new colour combination and its interiors are reported to have taken a complete deviation compared to the past.

However, the most striking feature of the 9-car rake is the shape of the first and last coaches.

The ends come with a splash of bright yellow paint and are designed more like the locomotives powering long distance express trains. Southern Railway sources said this was an attempt in making the coach more aerodynamic. The rakes, once made operational on the suburban sector, would contribute significantly to increasing the number of passengers travelling on the dense corridor all the way from Tirumalpur, Kancheepuram and Chengalpattu via Tambaram to Chennai Beach.

Ever since the steep hike of government bus fares in November last year when the shift from buses to electric trains was an enormous 25 per cent initially, the suburban services had become the most cost effective means of public transport.

25 rakes in operation

The new rakes, the officials hoped would cater to the increasing crowds swelling at all the railway stations. Currently there were 25 rakes in operation.

Of them 17 were 12-car rakes, while the rest were 9-car ones. 240 suburban train services were operated daily on the weekdays on the Chennai Beach – Tambaram – Chengalpattu sector, while on Sundays, Southern Railway operate 194 services.

Important station

In terms of volume of ticket sales, revenue and number of passengers using suburban electric train services, Tambaram is the most important station on this sector, next only to Chennai Central, the officials added.


Rlys stresses on comfort, fire safety in coach designs

Fire safety tops the list of priority of the railways’ research and design wing, officials have said. Thermoplastic interiors, stainless steel coaches, entertainment facilities and smoke detection systems will soon be in place in trains, said senior railway officials at a seminar in Chennai.

Addressing a seminar on emerging coach technology, general manager of Integral Coach Factory Abhay K Khanna said measures were being taken to make the entire railway operations and services “green” and safe.“We will soon start using biodegradable and recyclable materials to build coaches.The railway coach factories are already self-sufficient in their energy needs with 10.5 MW power generated from windmills in Tirunelveli district,”Khanna said.

V Ramachandran, the director of Research Design and Standards Organisation, said detection of inflammable materials still remains a challenge in coaches with doors and windows open. “Even an effective smoke detection system may not raise an alarm inside a fast moving train with all its windows and doors are opened. We are working out on an effective mechanism to address all the safety guidelines suggested by various studies,” said Ramachandran.

Forensic experts have found existence of inflammable materials and fire crackers in the ill-fated compartment of Tamil Nadu Express, which caught fire in July last killing more than 30 passengers. Railway is also eying at possible tie ups with international coach designers to build light-weight coaches that will serve long and needless maintenance.


India to increase LHB coach production

Indian Railways plans to switch its entire coach production to the LHB design by the end of the 2012-17 five year plan, according to Minister of State for Railways KH Muniyappa.

Approval has been given for upgrading the Kapurthala Rail Coach Factory and the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai to increase the production of LHB coaches.

The LHB design was acquired from Germany under a technology transfer agreement, and offers a longer service life with higher comfort, capacity and safety than indigenous designs. LHB coaches currently cost up to Rs10m more than ICF designs, but this is expected to reduce with volume production.


Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 7:05 am  Comments (2)  
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