Its latest is Train 18, which can be a game-changer for intercity commuters.
Post-Independence, the Indian Railways can claim to be the pioneers of ‘Make in India’, with its first facility at Mihijam (Jharkhand) in 1950 to manufacture steam locomotives. This venture with the North British Locomotive Company of the UK was followed in 1955 with the Swiss Car & Elevator Manufacturing Co to manufacture railway coaches at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. Next was a collaboration in 1961 with the American Locomotive Company of the US to manufacture diesel locomotives at the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi. Two decades later came up a second plant to manufacture coaches—Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, Punjab. To meet the growing needs for wheels and axles, the Rail Wheel Factory (formerly Wheel & Axle Plant) was set up at Yelahanka in Bangalore, in collaboration with the Amsted Industries of the US in 1984. Also, the Diesel Maintenance Works built in 1982, in Patiala, manufactures spares for the growing fleet of diesel locomotives, and a similar one for electric locomotives has recently been commissioned at Dankuni, in West Bengal. The Rail Spring Karkhana, set up in 1986, at Sithouli near Gwalior with West German aid to manufacture coil springs for wagons and passenger coaches completes the list of eight production units.
This ‘Make in India’ initiative has also provided an opportunity to public sector giants—BHEL and SAIL—and private sector big guns such as Kirloskar, Timken India (previously Tata Timken), NEI, ABB, Siemens, Mukand, etc, to enter in a long-term partnership with the Railways, all the while saving the nation billions of dollars in foreign exchange.
Apart from meeting its own needs, railway production units have also been exporting, earning precious foreign exchange, with the ICF leading the charge. The first export consignment of 47 bogies to Thailand was sent in 1967, and since then 361 bogies and 447 coaches have been exported to 13 Afro-Asian countries. The last order for Sri Lanka, to supply 20 rakes of six broad-gauge diesel multiple units, for commuter traffic around Colombo, was worth `120 crore.
With a fully computerised Design & Development Division equipped with state-of-the-art computer designing facilities and testing equipment, and a ISO.9001 certificate for its quality systems from TUV, Germany, to boot, the ICF is poised to enter the export market in a big way.
Now, as one of the ‘Make in India’ initiatives, it has turned out the first of many rakes of train sets christened ‘Train 18’. These are undergoing extensive trials at 160kph to be conducted by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation, Lucknow, before entering service. Basically with the same architecture as an EMU (electric multiple unit), this train set has every alternate coach as a motorised one, instead of just one motor coach with three trailer coaches as in an EMU. Apart from adding more power to the train, this results in higher acceleration and sustained high speeds.
What makes this initiative unique is it is an in-house effort by ICF’s design team working from scratch. With a stainless steel body, fully AC (including driver’s cab) coaches, sealed gangways, automatic door opening with sliding footsteps, it’s a match for train sets running in Europe or Japan.
The design involved not only the coach, but also jigs and fixtures for building the body and bogies. A unique feature is the Train Control and Management System, which oversees its propulsion system, braking system, and automatic door closing and opening. In addition, its interior furnishing makes it poles apart from the ordinary Mumbai EMU locals.
The 16-coach rake has all its power equipment underslung, which provides optimum seating capacity of 1,124—two executive cars seating 52 each, 12 second class coaches with 78 seats each, and two with motor coaches with 54 each (as room for driver’s cab at each end needs to be provided).
With on-board Wi-Fi infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting and many more facilities over and above those in the current Shatabdi trains, this Train 18 could indeed prove to be a game-changer for intercity commuters.