India’s plan to buy train sets are a step in the right direction, Railway board member (electrical) Kul Bhushan says. In an exclusive interview, he also elaborates on the technical innovations being attempted to ensure passenger safety. Excerpts:
Six EMU-type train sets are reportedly being procured from Japanese or European manufacturers for running inter-city trains at speeds ranging 160-200 km per hour. Some feel that it will be better to carry out modifications in the indigenously manufactured LHB-design coaches for hauling trains at the same speed.
Cost of train sets is slightly more expensive, but the other benefits are big. The Indian Railways cannot remain blind to the technological developments happening world-wide. The train sets are state-of-the-art; equipped to save as much as 40% of energy costs and have much fewer maintenance hassles. They are also designed to carry more passengers and also have regenerative breaking facilities. As regards plans to run high-speed trains, a start has to be made somewhere.
What is the progress on the electrification plans of the Indian Railways?
Against 4556 route km electrified in the 11th Plan period, an electrification target of 6500 route km has been set for the 12th Plan. Of this, 1200 route km are planned to be electrified this year.
Electrification is certainly on the agenda. The annual electricity bill of the Railways works out to be Rs. 6,800 crore, while electric trains carry approximately 60% of the traffic. On the other hand, the annual diesel bill of the Railways works out to Rs. 11,000 crore while just 40% of the traffic is hauled by diesel trains. However, there are several sections that are better served by diesel trains. Therefore, we have a mixed strategy on this issue.
Plans to set up captive power plants have not proceeded at the pace desired….
The Railways need 3,000 MW of power and this demand should be met within a few years. A captive power plant is coming up at Nabi Nagar in Bihar, which will become functional in 2014. A coal-based plant is coming up at Adra in West Bengal, while a gas-based plant is proposed near Mumbai. All these plants will become functional in the next few years.
Plans for installing Train Protection and Warning Systems (TPWS) and Anti Collision Devices (ACDs) have been on hold for past several years. What can explain such delays?
The automatic warning system (AWS) of the Mumbai suburban is planned to be shortly upgraded to TPWS network. The ECTS-Level-I technology is being pilot-tested in the Chennai suburban. The rail design and standards organisation (RDSO) are also developing a new technology called the train collision avoidance system (TCAS) and a pilot is being conducted in the Hyderabad-Wadi section. As regards the ACDs, there are still some issues that need to be settled.