Twenty new German-made train compartments, each priced at more than Rs 2.5 crore, lie dysfunctional and rusting at Kerala’s Kollam railway yard, exposing the negligence hidden by the façade of the new glittery coaches with CCTV and bio-toilets installed.
Climbers, creepers and rodents have made these LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) compartments their home, at a time when Indian Railways is finding it difficult to run long-distance trains to meet Kerala’s Onam rush due to coach shortage.
According to railway officials, these coaches were brought to Kerala to start a new premium service between Thiruvananthapuram and neighboring IT hub Bengaluru. Initially, railway authorities waited for a convenient date for the railway minister to flag off the train but it only got delayed. Later, the coaches were shifted to Kollam.
“Last year we had a similar experience. Rakes brought for Nizamuddin-Thiruvananthapuram premium train were dumped here for more than six months and rodents spoiled wiring badly. Later it was taken to Chennai for repair and used in Chennai-Jodhpur express,” an employee of the railway yard in Kollam said.
Authorities have also decided to call back rickety compartments which have been in use for more than 25 years.
When contacted, a senior official with the Thiruvananthapuram railway divisional office said the LHB coaches were shifted to Kollam due to paucity of space in Thiruvananthapuram station.
LHB coaches, first introduced in Shatabdi Express in 2000, are designed to operate at a speed of 160 to 200 kmph. Made with high-quality steel these coaches are anti-telescopic, which means in case of a mishap these coaches do not get turned over or flip. Initially all LHB coaches were air conditioned but now the factory in Kapurthala is also making sleeper coaches and chair cars.