Air conditioned local from tomorrow, but is it’s implementation correct?

In what can be called a Christmas gift to Mumbaikars, the much awaited & much delayed air conditioned local train will finally be in service of Mumbaikars from tomorrow. It’s first trip will be from Andheri to Churchgate at 2.10 pm. Thereafter it will be operated on 12 services per day as follows:

Origin, Destination, Departure from origin, arrival at destination

MX-BVI 06.58 07.50.

BVI-CCG 07.54 08.50.

CCG-VR 08.54 10.13.

VR-CCG 10.22 11.46.

CCG-VR 11.50 01.10.

VR-CCG 13.18 14.44.

CCG-VR 14.55 16.14.

VR-CCG 16.22 17.42.

CCG-BVI 17.40 18.41.

BVI-CCG 18.55 19.44.

CCG-VR 19.49 21.15.

VR-CCG 21.25 22.49

(Legend: MX-Mahalaxmi, CCG-Churchgate, BVI-Borivali, VR-Virar)

While this is good news, I have serious objections to the way it is going to be operated. The services which will be operated by AC rake are currently operated by regular non AC rake. From tomorrow onwards, the normal services will be replaced by AC service. I strongly disagree with this decision. The AC train should have been strictly run as additional services only. Normal ticket/pass holders won’t be able to use  these 12 services now. They are left with no option but to use the previous or next services. The next & previous services will have to accommodate an entire train load of extra commuters from tomorrow. It will definitely lead to overcrowding. Imagine the effects of a Virar fast cancelled in peak evening hours – that is what will happen from tomorrow, every single day.

The second sore point is operation on weekends. It is ok to not operate the AC rake on weekends as it may not find enough commuters. However this will result in reduction of 12 services on weekends, which were previously operated by non AC rakes. I’ve personally seen many of these services which will be converted to AC from tomorrow. They have good crowds on all days of the week. At least non AC rakes should be operated on these services on the weekend. 

Not everyone can afford AC rake travel. Withdrawing normal services which used to run full & operating AC service in its place is wrong. I hope authorities will give due consideration to these important points and take corrective measures at the earliest. 

EDIT: An interesting response I received on Twitter:

23 minutes between 2 Virar fast in evening is really too high and sure recipe for disaster

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CR introduces first Bombardier rake in service

Central Railway inducted their first Bombardier rake into the fleet today morning. The rake number is 5241-5244. It is an ex WR rake which is around 1 year old. It was a long pending demand that Central railway commuters too should get some of the new Bombardier rakes. There is some reason to cheer for the commuters now! Compared to Siemens rakes, Bombardier rakes offer improved & smoother ride, better ventilation system, less noise. I was at Thane station to see the rake in service on CR. I captured it on my camera as well. Here is a link to the video:


In the next few months, CR will get a total of 24 Bombardier rakes. Of these, 13 will be transferred to CR from WR. These will be the newest rakes of WR which are just one year old. The rest 11 will be brand new rakes manufactured at ICF Chennai. Originally, new Medha rakes were allotted to CR. However CR was reluctant to operate these rakes. Hence a solution was worked out that these 13 Medha rakes will be allotted to WR instead, while WR will transfer the newest 13 Bombardier rakes to CR in lieu of Medha rakes.

Railway board makes scathing remarks on AC local

Member of Railway Board (rolling stock) inspected various railway facilities in Mumbai a couple of months ago. The notes from this visit have been uploaded on IR’s website. Railway board member has made some harsh remarks about the air conditioned EMU rake which is currently undergoing testing. A short summary of the remarks:

  1. He notes that the rake is badly delayed due to some issues which could not be resolved. He appears to be unhappy with the progress of trials. Thus RDSO and BHEL have been asked to submit the final timeline for commissioning of the rake & also submit detailed schedule of all tests to be carried out on the rake.
  2. ICF has been asked to fix responsibility for manufacturing the rake with 4335 mm height even though max allowed height is 4275 mm on Central Railway
  3. Various deficiencies were noted in the rake with regards to high noise, vibrations, improper interiors & internal furnishings. These issues need to be addressed before pressing the rake into service. Some of the issues are:
    1. Very high level of noise when AC units are switched on. It should be brought down to permissible noise levels
    2. Low height of luggage racks
    3. Projections over seating area due to large size
    4. AC unit height is more than permissible height
    5. Vestibule (portion that allows walking from one coach to other) and floor are at different heights causing uneven flooring
    6. Vestibules are tilting, which creates gap between coaches. Design needs modification
    7. Public information system needs to be more elegant and at a better location
    8. Loose screws were found on flooring & flooring sheets were uneven
    9. Grab handles were broken. A sturdier design needs to be used
    10. Height of grab handles should also be looked into
    11. AC unit in motorman’s cab blows cold air directly on the back of motorman which will be uncomfortable for him
    12. CCTV camera should be provided
    13. LED lights should be used
    14. Number of fans should be reduced and their speed too should be reduced

It looks like the rake has many deficiencies & was hurriedly despatched from ICF. There is still no clarity on when it will be inducted into regular service. That day does seem to be quite far off.

During the inspection of Matunga workshop, Siemens rake motorcoaches too were inspected. Recently CR has been hit by a spate of cracks in bolsters of Siemens EMUs. A bogie bolster is the central section of the bogie that carries the entire weight of a coach on it. Cracks in such a critical component is a safety issue. CR has been working proactively to ensure all rakes are in a condition fit to run. These issues are most probably due to poor manufacturing/quality control at ICF. In his notes, member of board is critical of this as well. He says:

  1. From January 2017 to February 2017, 24 cases of cracks in bolster have been reported. 2 coaches having cracks were inspected
  2. As this is a critical item for safety, ICF was asked to come up with suitable repair procedures quickly. The repairs should be carries out by manufacturer of bogies under supervision of ICF
  3. ICF should trace manufacturer of each defective bolster
  4. RDSO should carry out audit of manufacturing processes of suppliers.
  5. Siemens rakes have started showing high levels of corrosion in various parts of coach in just 6-7 years. ICF should investigate and take corrective action on it.

Overall, this report reflects poorly on ICF. Their quality and finishing have come under criticism from the board. This is nothing new though, as the lack of quality is clearly visible even to the naked eye.

The notes from inspection can be accessed here.

High speed Siemens rakes fail tests

Three high-speed Austrian trains that were to run on Mumbai have failed the mandatory safety tests. The trains were supposed to run at the speed at 140 kmph but failed the running test at 100 kmph itself as the suspension and the stability, which are anti-derailment features, were not up to the mark. If successful, these trains were supposed to help in reducing travel time for commuters.

The three trains were procured by Railways under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project I (MUTP) and a ‘partial’ payment of the Rs 25 crore was made by the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is the planning body for Mumbai suburban.  


MRVC’s chief managing director Prabhat Sahai said, “The trials of these trains were unsuccessful. The trains will be sent back to the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai.” He added, “The electrical work of the train was manufactured by the Austrian company Seimens, which was the main component that was to enable it to go at the high-speed, but the shell of the train can still be used by the ICF and the trains may be reintroduced.”

Source

After more than 5.5 years of dilly-dally IR has finally decided to abandon this project of Siemens bogies (the frame on which wheels are attached). It would be good if the rake is reworked at ICF and sent back to Mumbai with the regular bogies. 

AC train trial run still a distant dream

While messages were being circulated on social media of a purported trial run of the air-conditioned rake between Churchgate and Virar on Wednesday evening, DNA has found that the trials could actually be several weeks away. Even some of the preliminary work that needs to be done before any rake can be tested have yet to be completed.

In reply to a query on the testing, Commissioner of Railway Safety (Western Circle) Sushil Chandra admitted as much. “I have asked Central Railway (where the rake is stabled) for a few clarifications on the rake, and only after I get them can we begin other procedures,” said Chandra. As CRS, Chandra is the top authority when it comes to giving approval for any new type of rake before it is put into operation on WR’s tracks

Source

The article says design specification of rake was such that its height would be 4265 mm which is suitable for both WR & CR. However during its manufacturing it “reached” 4295 mm. How is a mystery. If this is true, then it is a huge faux pas that shouldn’t have happened under any circumstances.

Commuter runs pillar to post for an ATVM at Airoli

“The Hindu” newspaper has taken note of the saga of ATVM at Airoli.

Here is the news story published in the newspaper dated 28th December 2016.

MUMBAI: At a time when the government claims to be turning digital, citizen friendly and transparent, one commuter’s efforts for 16 months to get Central Railway to install at least one Automatic Ticket Vending Machine (ATVM) on the eastern side of Airoli railway station have hit a dead end.

After Akshay Marathe’s repeated appeals to the authorities, including the Railway Minister, GM, DRM Mumbai and the Railway Ministry via Twitter went unheard, he filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking reasons for the lack of an ATVM machine on the eastern side of the station. The application, however, has received no reply since it was filed in September.

“One branch of the organisation where I work is located in Airoli. The office is located in Airoli (East), which is a hotbed of IT parks. Every day, thousands of employees of these companies use Airoli station to reach their respective workplaces. Considering the heavy footfall it receives every day, one would expect the eastern entrance to have all the amenities required at a station. Forget a ticket booking office, Central Railway has not provided even an ATVM on the eastern side,” said Mr. Marathe.

He added that in order to use an ATVM, one needs to walk all the way to the booking office on the other side of station. In all, it is a five to six-minute walk from the eastern to the western side and back to platform. “That beats the whole purpose of providing the convenience of an ATVM.”

Mr. Marathe filed the online RTI application on September 15, asking why there was no action on his tweets, whether there were any plans to put up an ATVM at Airoli (East), and whether a feasibility study was carried out for the same. There was no reply to his appeal in the stipulated time, and the request has been transferred from one desk to another.

When contacted, A.K. Singh, the public relations officer for Central Railway, said Airoli has six ATVMs, which are all in working condition.

“But these are all on the western side of the station. And I am asking why there isn’t a single machine on the other side, for which I have not received a reply in the last 16 months,” said Mr. Marathe.

Link to the news

I hope CR authorities will take notice of this at least now.

Production of Pending MUTP-1 rakes resumes

In the year 2013, had first posted that few rakes from MUTP-1 quota were still not manufactured (link to post). I had also sought information about them under RTI act. After that, one 9 coach rake was manufactured a couple of years ago. I am happy to inform that the production of these missing rakes has resumed. The first of these rakes was spotted at Chennai by a fellow railway enthusiast. It will reach Central Railway in the first week of new year.

Two more rakes are expected after this. They will definitely help CR to phase out old coaches. I am glad that the railways finally decided to manufacture these coaches.