Train 18: Get ready for a world-class experience on Indian Railways trains! Come September, Indian Railways will roll out its latest technological innovation – a train that will not only beat the comforts and speed of the premium Shatabdi Express but will also be engine-less! Codenamed Train 18 (after the year it is being manufactured in), this would be a semi-high speed, self-propelled train set – an experiment by Indian Railways which if successful will change the face of inter-city train travel in India. Train 18 will be a fully air-conditioned chair car meant to eventually replace Shatabdi Express trains on key Indian Railways routes. Being manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) Chennai, Train 18 will be able to ply at a maximum speed of 160 kmph.
At a fundamental level, train sets have traction motors under every coach, making them self-propelled and hence eliminating the need for an engine to haul the train as a whole. These train sets will be similar to those that run on the suburban network of Indian Railways, but the key differentiators would be the speed and distance. The fully ‘Make in India’ train set is a leap for Indian Railways manufacturing capabilities because it is for the first time that an engine-less self-propelled train set is being made for inter-city travel.
The first Train 18 set will roll out in early September this year after which it will undergo extensive trials by RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organisation). Indian Railways is hopeful that after 2-3 months of trials, RDSO will give its go-ahead and Train 18 will be ready for passengers. While the new Train 18 is expected to start plying by the end of this year, the route has not yet been decided. Sources told Financial Express Online that Train 18 is likely to ply from Delhi, but the final call will be taken by the Railway Board after the train set is ready.
Train 18: Salient Features and how it will be better than Shatabdi Express
Train 18 will have 16 fully air-conditioned chair car coaches of which 2 will be of Executive-class and 14 will be non-Executive with a seating capacity of 56 and 78 passengers respectively. As stated above the self-propelled engine-less Train 18 will be able to run at 160 kmph. Here are some of the salient features of the swanky and ‘luxurious’ Train 18:
- Onboard WiFi and infotainment; GPS-based passenger information system
- Continuous windows for a better viewing experience
- Diffused, energy-efficient LED lighting; halogen-free rubber-on-rubber flooring
- Automatic interconnecting doors
- Concealed roller blinds; spacious luggage rack
- Zero discharge bio-vacuum toilets with touch-free bathroom fittings
- Train 18 coaches will have space to park wheelchairs
- Interconnected coaches with fully sealed gangways
- The entry and exit doors for the coaches will also be automatic with a new feature – sliding footsteps! These will open when the train halts at the platform.
- Under-slung 3-phase propulsion system; new generation bogie for better jerk-free riding
The biggest advantage of train sets like Train 18 is that there are driving cabs at both ends, similar to what metro networks in cities have. This means that the turnaround time of the train gets drastically reduced. Explains Shri Prakash, former Railway Board member, “Apart from the interior comforts that Indian Railways may choose to offer, the biggest advantage of such train sets is that the acceleration and deceleration time would be less. The power that propels in the train in case of Train 18 will be better distributed, which means that apart from the speed factor, travel time between point A to point B would come down.”
“Also, with no locomotive reversal required (driving cab is at both ends), the turnaround time would reduce,” Shri Prakash told FE Online. “Hypothetically, if such a train set were to ply between Delhi to Chandigarh it would be able to complete around 2 trips instead of the 1 with the Shatabdi Express,” he said.
Technological leap for Indian Railways:
According to Sudhanshu Mani, GM of ICF the concept of a distributed power train set for Mainline Express services is completely new for Indian Railways. “Even though such trains are used in EMUs for local Trains – using it on Mainline express is altogether a different ball game,” he tells FE Online in an exclusive interaction. For adoption of such a new concept, the traction system and power required for air conditioning and train lighting have to be modularized and distributed across the train set as underslung, he said adding that this requires the development of a new design of the coach, bogies and electric equipment.
The new Train 18 has been designed by ICF with the help of consultants without any technology transfer, said Sudhanshu Mani. This is unlike earlier cases where LHB coaches, EMD locomotives involved technology transfer. There is also the fact that the vendor base supplying items for Train 18 has now developed design capabilities, whereas earlier it was dependent on already developed designs. “This will help in making best-in-class products in India rather than solely importing,” said Mani.
Additionally features such as fully sealed gangways with exterior fairings between the coaches, automatic sliding footsteps and aero-dynamic front-end are new technologies that will be introduced for the first time, he said.
Train 18: Advantage ‘Make in India’ – half the cost of import!
The propulsion system for Train 18 will be supplied Medha. The ‘Make in India’ train would have around 80% indigenous components. ICF claims that Train 18 would be comparable to semi-high speed trains that ply internationally. Not only that, the indigenous design and development of Train 18 mean its cost is almost half that of a similar imported train. According to Sudhanshu Mani, not taking into account the initial development cost, Train 18 coaches will cost around Rs 6 crore. This, he claims, is 60% of the cost of a similar train set globally. The long-term manufacturing cost would come down further once economies of scale are realised.
ICF plans to manufacture two Train 18 sets initially, but more are likely to be rolled out based on the feedback of the first two. An ICF official told FE Online that that Railway Board wants 6 train sets of Train 18 type to be manufactured but that will happen once the specifications are decided and feedback of the initial two train sets is incorporated.