LHB coaches are safer compared with ICF coaches as the former does not pile up in case of a derailment. Coach pile-up increases the chances of casualties in case of accidents.
Multiple train derailments in the last one month seems to have created a sense of urgency within the Indian Railways. Railway minister Piyush Goyal has asked officials to look for ways to double the manufacturing of Linke-Hoffman-Busch (LHB) coaches starting next financial year. Railways at present has the capacity to manufacture 4,000 LHB coaches per year and given the current capacity—and considering incremental rise in manufacturing capacity over the years—it would take around 8-9 years for the transporter to replace all its 40,000 Integral Coach Factory (ICF)-type coaches of the total 60,000 coaches pressed into service in the Indian Railway network. However, according to sources, the minister has asked to double the manufacturing capacity to 8,000 in order to replace all ICF coaches with LHB ones within five years.
Soon after taking charge of the ministry, Goyal released a five-point agenda of actionable measures to reduce accidents due to derailments with one of them being “only safer LHB coaches to be manufactured”. LHB coaches are safer compared with ICF coaches as the former does not pile up in case of a derailment. Coach pile-up increases the chances of casualties in case of accidents. “We will be looking to increase capacities in our coach factories and explore options such as other PSUs (public sector units) and the private sector. Coach factories will have to increase their capacity and PSUs which have been making few coaches may be asked to manufacture more,” said a railway official requesting not to be named. Companies such as state-run BEML and private firm Titagarh Wagons are some of the options who are into rail manufacturing that may be approached to manufacture LHB coaches.
In the interim till the railways moves to an all-LHB fleet, as reported by FE earlier, the carrier will start retrofitting of coaches with a life of at least 15 years with safe couplers. These couplers enhance the safety features, prevent toppling and coaches pile-ups during derailments. The railways will also start prematurely retiring some of the older ICF coaches depending on their physical condition and will be used for other purposes such as parcel vans, as additional coaches for track machines, car carriers and staff resting vans. Railways will also be looking to upgrade the existing German LHB technology used in manufacturing coaches as this is 35 years old. “There have been many changes in technology since then. The issue of upgrading the technology has been raised and it is being discussed whether the railways should go for improvised technology,” said the official quoted above. The official, however, added new technology transfer may take time though there will an attempt to move towards it.
Other actionable points include elimination of all unmanned level crossings within the year. At present, there are 5,000 such crossings on the broad gauge which were earlier targeted to be eliminated within three years. Goyal, as per the official quoted above, has given a target of 500 unmanned level crossings to be eliminated each month in order to do away with such crossings in the next 10 months.