How delayed is Mumbai’s first AC local?

Just how delayed is Mumbai’s air-conditioned (AC) suburban train project? If replies given to dna by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai are anything to go by, then the project has been six years in the making. And just about no railway official is willing to hazard a guess on when the project, which comprises making 10 such AC rakes, will be completed.

According to railway ministry documents, the AC suburban rake project started way back in 2010 under the guardianship of the Railway Board’s Electrical Engineering (Development) directorate.

The start was a good one with a Railway Board letter of acceptance way back on November 23, 2010, finalising the purchase of 40 traction motors – the heart of the rake – for all 10 rakes at one go. The cost for these motors – four for each of the 10 rakes – was set at Rs167.47 crore excluding taxes and duties. On the same day, a purchase order worth Rs7 crore for other electrical equipment for the first rake was also finalised.

The delays started soon after. The ICF-Chennai, which built the AC rake, was told to proceed on a project by the railway board to build the rake on June 5, 2012, almost two years after the project was envisaged.

By 2013, the electrical sets for the first AC rake were sent to Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) by Netherlands-based Strukton Rail. However, work on the AC rake started more than a year later in August 2014 at ICF-Chennai. On December 8, 2015 the electrical sets for the second rake was also sent by Strukton to BHEL.

On March 31 this year, almost two years after the physical construction of the AC rake began, the ICF-Chennai dispatched the first rake to Mumbai. It arrived at Central Railway’s Kurla Carshed on April 5. According to ICF Chennai documents, the rake was finally constructed at a cost of Rs51.42 crore.

The AC rake is currently awaiting trial. The future of the AC rake project is now without any deadlines for the future. In a reply to dna on the production schedule for future AC rakes, ICF stated that ‘further manufacturing will be decided based on the performance of the trials’.

Source

Unfortunately, this is the fate of every new development in the Indian Railways. They just seem to lack the ability to bring in improvements in an acceptable time frame. The system is riddled with bureaucracy, red tape, infighting between departments etc.

ICF’s response to quality issues

I had raised a grievance regarding these quality issues on pgportal, as well as on Twitter. CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer) at ICF was very prompt to reply on Twitter. He informed that brainstorming sessions were conducted at ICF for improving paint quality, apart from a few other things.

The pgportal grievance was also forwarded to ICF for resolution. ICF’s reply is as follows:

The grievances of the applicant have been studied in detail with concerned departments. The points given on both Interior Exterior of MUTP(EMU) rakes also thoroughly studied. It is to be mentioned here that, all the item have details specifications drawings. The materials supplied by various manufacturers are based on our drawings specifications which are inspected by M/s.RITES before supply. ICF also strictly following the despatch targets given by Railway Board to Western Railway till date. All the coaches are manufactured as per strict QAP with stage inspections wherever needed. Post despatch, ICF is getting feedback on each rate at the time of commissioning at Western Railway. Board on the commissioning reports all the vendors ICF staff whoever involved in manufacture of MUTP (EMU) rakes have been asked to visit Western Railway and to rectify the defects then there. This is a continuous process and a system is in existence for addressing all the commissioning issues raised by Western Railway. Anyway ICF is taking all the points given by the applicant giving special attention to it. All necessary preventive /corrective action on despatched rakes as well as future rakes are initiated and ensured.

From their reply it is clear that ICF has taken efforts to patiently go through everything before replying. They made a sincere attempt to understand the issues. I would like to thank the team at ICF for the sincere efforts they have taken to resolve the grievance & for devoting time to listen to a layman. I am eagerly waiting to see the positive changes in rakes manufactured from now!

I would also take this opportunity to congratulate ICF for reaching milestone of 50th Bombardier rake. It is definitely not an easy task to manufacture 600 coaches in such a short duration.

Construction of two metro lines to begin mid-monsoon

Hindustan Times reports:

The BJP-led state government has decided to start building two metro lines in the first week of September, bucking the decades-old practice of halting construction during the monsoon.

The reason for this is that the government wants to ensure the two lines are operational by mid-2019, in time for it to showcase them as an achievement in the run-up to elections later that year.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) recently appointed contractors for civil work on Metro 7 (Dahisar East to Andheri East) and Metro 2A (Dahisar to DN Nagar stretch).

“We have to build a metro network spanning over 170 km in Mumbai and surrounding areas. To achieve this goal, we will have to speed up work. So we have asked the contractors of Metro 2A and Metro 7 to start construction in September, which is feasible,” said Pravin Darade, additional commissioner of MMRDA and a secretary in the chief minister’s office.

Link to source.

I hope at least the urge to complete the lines for showcasing in elections will ensure that they stay on schedule. If this reason does not make them complete work on time, nothing ever will.

Quality of ICF manufactured Bombardier rakes deteriorates further!

The quality of rakes being turned out by ICF continues its free-fall. I had previously reported (link 1, link 2) the poor quality of Bombardier rakes in the linked posts. I had reported this to concerned authorities on Twitter & also registered a complaint on MRVC’s website including links to images clicked by me. MRVC had replied “There is RDSO specification of Epoxy cum Polyurethane painting system (two pack) for the exterior painting of Railway coaches. as per the RDSOs specification, ICF is doing exterior painting & Western Railway is maintaining the coaches. However, the complaint regarding dullness & fading of painting in MUTP PH-II EMU rakes has been advised to ICF by Western Railway to take necessary corrective action.” You can check the complaint & reply by visiting this link. Please search for complaint number 7980.

I had complained in March 2016. ICF has been asked to take corrective action in the same month. However, the quality continues to deteriorate with every new rake. ICF has NOT ACTED on the feedback by WR/MRVC in these 4 months. The letter telling them to improve paint quality probably was thrown into dustbin, or relegated to a file in a dark corner of someone’s cabin at ICF. They blatantly continue manufacturing sub standard rakes. The quality of materials as well as workmanship – both are of very poor standards. Over the past 3 days, I traveled quite a bit on Western Railway. Here are some photos showing the poor workmanship & materials used by ICF.

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Cracks in interior panelling of 5116 B. Age of coach: less than 5 months

Sub standard material used near door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Sub standard material used near door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

High variation in shades of white. Age of rake: less than 2 months

High variation in shades of white. Also note poor finishing of roof. There are dents all over. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Various shades of white & violet. Beyond description in words.

Various shades of white & violet. Beyond description in words.

Shade of white is different on the 2 coaches in pic. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Shade of white is different on the 2 coaches in pic. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Shade of white changes on the left of window. Some variation in violet shade too. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Shade of white changes on the left of window. Some variation in violet shade too. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Various shades of violet on top strip and HT compartment door. Shade of white changes on the left of window. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Various shades of violet on top strip and HT compartment door. Shade of white changes on the left of window. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Patchwork done with different shade of white below violet strip on top. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Patchwork done with different shade of white below violet strip on top. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Different shades of white in the box where "First class" is written. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Different shades of white in the box where “First class” is written. Bottom half of the text “WESTERN RAILWAY” is outside violet strip. Age of rake: 2 weeks

Shabby Patchwork done on violet paint below window!

Shabby Patchwork done on violet paint below window!

Variation in shade of violet. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Variation in shade of violet. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Variation in shade of violet. Shade of band around door is different from that below window. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Variation in shade of violet. Shade of band around door is different from that below window. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Variation in shade of violet. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Variation in shade of violet. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Stripes denoting first class peeled off! Age of rake: 1 year

Stripes denoting first class peeled off! Age of rake: 1 year

Paint peeling off from a doorway

Paint peeling off from a door

Dents at regular intervals, as if coach was hit with hammer.

Dents at regular intervals, as if coach was hit with hammer. Also, excess residue left after welding is not removed.

The coat of paint is so thin that you can see dark spots of whatever lies beneath the paint

The coat of paint is so thin that you can see dark spots of whatever lies beneath the paint

Sub standard material used near door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Sub standard material used near door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Poor painting above window - shade of white changes. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Poor painting above window – shade of white changes. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Varying shades of white! Age of rake: less than 2 months

Varying shades of white! Age of rake: less than 2 months

Mismatch of violet colour above door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

Mismatch of violet colour above door. Age of rake: less than 2 months

"I I" sign indicating second class is missing

“I I” sign indicating second class is missing

Cracked panel in 5141 B. This coach is not even 3 months old

Cracked panel in 5141 B. This coach is not even 3 months old

This same panel seemed very weak. It could be pushed inside without applying any force. A video showing it:

I am really angered by what I saw in these 3 days. There were more defects which I couldn’t capture on camera. Defects like unnecessary cuts in interior panels, shoddy fitment of panels, shoddy fitting of window beading are so common that it is pointless to click them

It is clear that there is absolutely no quality control at ICF. Their only motto is to keep on turning out coaches, don’t look at even basic levels of quality. Interiors panels cracking in 2 month is simply criminal. “Ye gunah nahi, ye toh paap hai” to quote a line from Marathi movie “Katyar Kaljat Ghusali”. These rakes are supposed to last 25 years. I have to say that Siemens rakes were a lot better than this. WR & CR workshops can do a far better work of painting rakes. So much for a world class manufacturing facility supposedly using advanced PU paint.

What is more shocking is that ICF has played deaf ears to feedback from WR & MRVC. They have chosen to conveniently IGNORE the shortcomings pointed out by WR. Even after WR advised ICF, the quality continues to plummet. How shameless can they be? MRVC has absolutely no control over ICF. Why didn’t MRVC issue an ultimatum to ICF to improve quality? No one is answerable in the whole system. Complaints evoke standard responses like “ICF has been advised”, “ICF follows standards set by RDSO” etc. Is there anyone to check whether standards are really followed? Is there any unbiased quality audit? If these are standards set by RDSO, then it is high time to review them, because they are horrible.

I am really disappointed with ICF’s work. This is what happens when you have monopoly. ICF can get away with anything they do, as they have no competition! Unfortunately, the damage is already done. More than 60% of the rakes are already manufactured. Nothing can be done about them now.

All we can do is hope some miracle will happen and things will improve sometime in the future.

PS: With this post, MRVC Mania has reached the milestone of 200 posts🙂

Pics: Mumbai Metro line 7 preparatory work kicks off!

Preparatory work for Mumbai Metro line 7 (Dahisar East to Andheri East) has begun at various stretches parallel to the Western Express Highway. J Kumar has started soil testing between Goregaon & Borivali. This Sunday morning, I took out some time to go for a stroll and clicked a few photos of the work. So here is the first look at the preparatory works!

IMG_2996 IMG_2997 IMG_2998 IMG_2999 IMG_3001 IMG_3002 IMG_3003 IMG_3004 IMG_3006

I hope the work on this line is taken up on a war footing. It will greatly ease the load on Western Express Highway & WR suburban system to some extent.

Deteriorating quality of Bombardier rakes

Last week I travelled in a serial production bombardier rake for the first time. It was rake #5133-5136, a two month old rake. I was rather disappointed with it. Here are a few observations:

  1. Frameless windows give a clean uncluttered look to the interiors.
  2. Chequered flooring has an all new design. It looks better than the age old design common on other rakes.
  3. Texture on grab poles near door is very nice. It gives excellent grip.
  4. Workmanship on exterior is horrible. Welding joints are clearly visible. There is no effort to conceal them. That gives exterior a very crude look. Other miscellaneous instances of poor workmanship are present inside the rake. I won’t bore you by going into all of them!
  5. I have already written a lot about quality of painting (Link 1Link 2). Just a couple of more points. The paint has no shine whatsoever. Workmanship is poor here too. I could see many places where large drops of paint dripping down the coach had dried mid way, giving a bubbly look to the coach. External finishing of two prototype rakes was much better.
  6. The central duct for ventilation and all sidewall panels in the serial production rakes are made of FRP (fibre reinforced plastic). The first two prototype rakes had metal panelling. These FRP panels are uneven in appearance. Most importantly FRP is very susceptible to damage compared to metal panels.
  7. There are strips fixed on ventilation duct at regular intervals to hold it in place. The delicate FRP paneling is broken near every strip perhaps due to excess force applied while screwing in the strips. Like I said above, FRP panel gets damaged very easily.
  8. I suspect some of the violet colour on exterior is stickers. Especially bands near door and strip above door. The colours of stickers and paint do not match – typical of ICF.

There is no doubt that the series production rakes are a downgrade from initial prototype rakes. In my initial review, I had highly praised the interiors of the rake. Most of the positives are no longer applicable for series production rakes. The first three points from “What you will like” in the review are no longer applicable:
– Interior gets a fresh new look
– Quality of materials used for interior furnishing has improved
– Fit & finish of interior has improved a lot

Its almost like ICF gave a good product as a prototype and a poor quality, inferior version of the prototype as final product.

PS: I had already reported a few more changes in this post.