New Delhi: To clear extra rush during peak hours, Indian Railways is finalising plans to manufacture high axle load bogies which can carry up to 400 passengers.
Plans are afoot to manufacture 120 coaches with increased axle load of bogies to carry higher load, a senior Railway Ministry official said.
Currently, non-AC LHB (Linke Holfmann Busch) coach can carry the load of up to 250 passengers with a sitting capacity of about 90.
“But very often more than 250 passengers travel in a coach during rush hour and it has resulted in damage of the spring and other bogie parts,” the official said, adding, “due to increasing load of passengers, Railways requires coaches with higher axle load bogies.”
LHB bogies have axle load up to 16 tons. According to the plan, it can be increased up to 19.5 ton which will enable Railways to carry up to 400 passengers.
Railways requires about 120 such bogies to run at a maximum speed of 130 km per hour on high density route.
It expects that the high capacity coaches will generate higher passenger revenue.
“The bogies with increased axle load can cater load up to 400 passengers per coach during peak season. These bogies will also have crash worthy design so that wheel sets do not come out from bogies during accidents and causing major damage,” the official said.
The proposed coaches would be non-AC and the height will be the same as the existing LHB coach.
Indian railway’s plan to share in-house designs and drawings of passenger coaches with private parties has created a flutter in its two production units – the Kapurthala-based Rail Coach Factory (RCF) and the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Chennai.
Initiating bulk privatisation of passenger coach manufacture, the railways had permitted different private parties, including the Jessops and the Titagarh Wagons Limited, to manufacture different types of coaches for 26 rakes (trains) in 2012.
The plan has remained on hold because of stiff resistance from labor unions at the two production units.
“There are issues of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and also matters relating to passenger safety. The Railway Board directive is flawed and coach design and drawings cannot be parted with in this manner,” a RCF official said.
Designs and drawings have been jointly manufactured by the Lucknow-based Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and the production units. These are presently valued at R1500 crore.
“It is unusual for the board to provide these free of cost to the private parties,” an official said.
“The 11th plan document (for which the orders were placed) does not envisage outsourcing of coach manufacture and such proposals are also not enlisted in the Vision-2020 document. It needs to be investigated how this outsourcing proposal was inserted into the Rolling Stock Program (RSP) of the railways,” asked an official.
“Outsourcing activities were being pursued with the aim of expanding the supply base for coach manufacture because of the ever increasing demand,” a Railway Board official said.
Questioning the logic, an ICF official said the capacity enhancement of both the RCF and ICF had been envisaged keeping in mind the future requirements.
“What explains the sudden decision to outsource an activity that is intrinsically linked with passenger safety?” he asked.
“The present challenge is to fend off possibilities of an industrial dispute. This is a worrying situation and the board has been informed about this. We have not shared the designs and drawings with the private parties so far,” the RCF official said.
A Railway Board directive to the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) to share its coach manufacturing know-how free of cost with private players has upset workmen, who feel it is against public interest and amounts to a sell-out of ICF’s mandate as a premier supplier of coaches to the Railways.
The Railway Board’s February 13 circular to the General Managers of ICF, Chennai, and the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, on “transfer of design drawings” to contracting firms had triggered a tool-down strike on March 6 for a few hours.
The protest was spearheaded by a Joint Action Council (JAC) formed on behalf 12,000 ICF employees represented by an elected 12-member Staff Council. It demanded that the Board’s decision be immediately withdrawn.
The strike was called off based on an assurance from the administration that ICF’s intellectual property and its workmen’s interests would be protected.
However, with the Railway Board again showing keenness on pushing the project through, JAC sources say workmen would return to the warpath. “Our stand is unchanged. As the Board has offered a second round of consultation, we have deferred direct action until then,” an ICF Staff Council member said.
Documents available with The Hindu show how the Rs. 610-crore deal provides five contracting firms free access to ICF’s technical repository of coach design and drawings and is tilted in favour of these companies assigned to manufacture over 400 coaches.
Kolkata-based Titagarh Wagons Ltd. will manufacture 99 AC EMU coaches, BESCO eight MEMU coaches, and Jessop 59 AC EMU coaches while the only public sector undertaking in the list, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd., Bangalore, has been assigned two contracts — one for the manufacture of 72 AC EMU coaches and another for 160 DEMU coaches.
Under the terms and conditions, the ICF would formalise an agreement to hand over design and drawings free of cost.
The ICF had paid Rs. 160 crore for getting LHB design know-how from a German manufacturer 10 years ago. The firms would only bear costs such as “incidental expenses connected with the preparation and printing of drawings,” registration fees and stamp duties.
Further, according to clause 6 of the contract, Indian Railways would provide steel raw material, wheel set assembly and electric traction equipment to the contractor’s work siding or the railway station nearest to the work site. Even when this is the case, the contract incorporates a “price variation” provision by which the Railways would also shell out the differential in price escalation of material and labour costs to the contracting firm.
“You outsource to lower costs. But, here the Railways will be spending at least Rs. 120 crore more than ICF costs when just a fraction of that money would have been enough to scale up production at existing coaching units at Chennai, Kapurthala and Raebareli,” an ICF supervisor said.
The Railway Board did not respond to The Hindu’s e-mail request for clarification on these issues.
Earlier this month, the Board’s bid to sort out the issue through consultations failed to cut ice with ICF workmen.
On May 4, a delegation of top Board officials held a meeting with the administration and representatives of workers.
“None of the officials could dispute our contention that no public interest is served by this contract,” said a JAC member who attended the meeting. As none of the firms other than BEML had turn-key coach manufacturing units, it was unlikely that they would be able to deliver coaches within three months of placement of order.
The Kanchrapara Railway Workshop of Eastern Railway is preparing to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2013. The sesquicentenary celebrations of the workshop, one of the oldest in the country, will start from November, 2012 and continue for a year.
“In this connection, the workshop will be publishing a memorabilia. We would request all members of the general public who have documents, photographs or other items related to the workshop in their possession to come forward and share them with us. Those items with heritage value will be displayed in a befitting manner during the celebrations and due credit will be given to the owners. The workshop is one of the oldest establishments in the railways but continues to provide yeoman service till now”