Railway Board plans to buy high-speed trains at Rs.550 crore a piece

The Indian railways needs at least Rs.10 lakh crore to enhance its safety measures and another Rs.1.25 lakh crore to complete 129 key projects.

These financial hiccups, however, have not stalled the flight of ambition of the railway board, which has prepared a proposal to buy highspeed trains, which can travel up to 200 km per hour, at the cost of Rs.550 crore per train.

The “speed-up high quality coach trains” are proposed to run on the Delhi-Mumbai route. The ambitious plan, involving an expenditure of Rs.10,587 crore for 20 speed-up trains, has triggered a debate in the railway department with several members finding the project unfeasible given the current condition of the railways.

The feasibility study, presented in the railway board meeting on November 1, also took into account the additional cost of three to four thousand crore rupees that would be incurred in setting up the infrastructure to run the high-speed trains.

The feasibility proposal (a copy of which is with Mail Today) has evoked sharp criticism from former board members and railway brass, with some sniffing a “scam” and “favouritism” to a particular company.

“It is learnt that companies like Altstom, Bombardier and Siemens are in the race to grab the contract. Japanese giants in the field – Hitachi, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi – are also not far behind. Incidentally, the feasibility study for these trains was sponsored by Japan’s ministry of economy, trade and industry (METI),” a board member said.

Many questioned the proposal’s viability at a time when the railways is struggling to complete several pending projects. A senior board member pleading anonymity said: “There are several pending issues which need urgent attention and are affecting the daily operations of the railways. If we can run a highquality train at the cost of Rs.60-70 crore, including the locomotive cost, why are we going for the high-speed trains which are 10 times more expensive? The proposal is impractical given we don’t have proper tracks to run even 100 km/hr speed trains.”

The total cost earned from passenger fare per train will not even be enough to pay the interest of the loan required to buy these trains. “Had it been an investment it would have been a feasible approach. But that is not the case,” the board member said. “Besides the Rs.11,000 crore cost of the train, also consider the expenditure on the tracks.

The cost of one km track for such high-speed train will be equivalent to the cost of 20 km of normal coach tracks in use in the country. I don’t approve of the proposal, so do many other members in the board,” the board member added.

Former general manager in the railways, R.C. Sethi, said: “You (the railway board) are dreaming a technological leap when you don’t have the strength to even walk properly on the ground.”

Former railway board member (mechanical) R.C. Acharya questioned the “extravagance” saying: “It seems to me to be an attempt by vested interests to push the railways into a horrendously expensive initiative.”

“Rather than taking up such projects, the railways should push pending projects, enhance line capacity and consolidate its bread winner – the freight operations,” Acharya added.

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/indian-railways-high-speed-trains-rs-550-crore-a-piece/1/229159.html

Published in: on November 17, 2012 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Railways to put new suburban rakes on right track

MUMBAI: Even as Siemens (the company that supplies the new hi-tech rakes) has accepted that the traction motors in its swanky trains are faulty and
agreed to replace them by the first week of April, the railway authorities have started damage control.

The main reasons for failure have been identified as malfunctioning of traction motors, faulty software, pneumatic trouble and auxiliary warning system inconsistency. Traction motor and software failure contribute to 90% of the breakdowns.

Siemens and Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd (MRVC)-the coordinating body-have come under criticism that the rakes failed less than a few months after they were introduced. Motors are usually built to last at least 25 years-which, incidentally, is the lifespan of a train.

Officials said the rakes were tested before they were commissioned. Obviously, the lab tests didn’t take into account the super-dense loads Mumbai’s suburban locals are subjected to.

“There has been chaos at the divisional and the zonal levels. Carshed resources are pooled in and this has overburdened the staff. One technician escorts every train. The staff work under immense pressure. Indian Railways has put pressure on Siemens to sort out the issue,” said S S Gupta, chief public relations officer, Western Railway (WR).

Senior railway officials headed by WR general manager R N Verma inspected the carshed during the fag end of February and re-drafted maintenance patterns. “Every time a rake failed, it would take at least 20 minutes for it to clear. With a frequency of three minutes, this would cause serious repercussions as trains would end up bunching along the entire line,” said Gupta.

At present, 17 new rakes run on the Western line. Each rake has 16 motors. All operations are carried out by computers that also monitor the rakes. So far, 56 motors have been replaced, 36 of which had failed. Twelve were changed before they could break down, thanks to monitoring message No 145. This failure number refers to an abnormal ratio of current drawn to speed. Bearing failure is directly related to the speed of the train. Event downloading is carried out every three days.

“Siemens will send modified motors by April 1; 100 motors are expected per month. These will be changed in our carsheds,” Gupta said.

Eight motor failures were detected by rolling examination, which is done by checking for abnormal sound of the rake when it runs on the tracks. Trained technicians are placed 24×7 at Mumbai Central, Borivli and Virar to check for unusual sounds from the motor. “If a sound is detected, we immediately pull the rake out of service,” explained Gupta. It takes a day or two to replace a motor.

A software malfunction can also bring the train to a halt. It was noticed that after the system was re-booted, the problem would disappear. Officials admit they still don’t know why software problems occur.