Lighter, maintenance-friendly and improves passenger comfort

Mamuni Das

New DelhiJune 21Stainless steel producers may get a significant increase in demand for supplying sheets to the Indian Railways.

The Railways is evaluating a move to increase manufacture of stainless steel LHB coaches in its production units in a phased manner.

New generation

This new generation passenger coach which is relatively longer, but lighter and maintenance-friendly improves passenger comfort, safety and operation.

Facilities

Currently, the production units of Railways manufacture about 100 LHB coaches from a total of about 2,200 coaches every year.

From a total fleet of about 35,000 coaches, it has about 400 LHB coaches.

The LHB coaches allow for more people per coach as well and can accommodate about 10-12 per cent more people per coach. They also rank high on passenger comfort due to various features that include better design and lower noise levels.

LHB coaches are used primarily in select Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains, apart from some air-conditioned coaches in mail and express trains.

The Railways has also manufactured select non-air-conditioned LHB stainless steel coaches, which it is using in two rakes.

The Railways started manufacturing stainless steel LHB coaches at Kapurthala-based Rail Coach Factory after a transfer of technology agreement with Alstom-LHB, Germany.

The Railways had imported 24 coaches from Alstom-LHB before the technology transfer agreement was signed.

LHB vs corten coaches

Manufacturing each LHB coach costs an average of Rs 2 crore against Rs 83 lakh for a coach made of corten steel (which is used for the usual coaches in use).

However, the Railways is considering a move to manufacture coaches with stainless steel body shells (of LHB design) without the "frills" to bring down the cost by about 35-40 per cent.

LHB coaches can run at a speed of up to 160 km per hour (kmph) whereas the other coaches being used can run at a maximum speed of 130 kmph.

Lifespan

Moreover, LHB stainless steel coaches have a life of "at least 35 years" while corten steel coaches have a life of 25 years after which they need to be scrapped.

Also, the corten steel coaches require relatively more repair and maintenance work. Thus, apart from higher repair and maintenance costs, they also remain idle for a longer duration.

"We are evaluating the financial implications of the proposal," point out official sources.

Apart from high cost, another matter that weighs against LHB coaches is the fact that it is difficult to have electricity generation capacity in each coach.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 22, 2007)
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