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New technology in trains faulty

Are the new-age trains safe for Mumbai commuters? A new finding by engineers in the city's suburban railway network has revealed that a change of technology in a vital component could be the reason behind the increasing number of derailments of these trains.

mumbai Updated: Jul 17, 2010 02:25 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

Are the new-age trains safe for Mumbai commuters?

A new finding by engineers in the city's suburban railway network has revealed that a change of technology in a vital component could be the reason behind the increasing number of derailments of these trains.

On Sunday, first three wheels of the ladies compartment of a Virar-Churchgate fast train derailed at Mahim station as it was crossing over from fast to slow track.

Railway officials said if the problem is established, they will make any amendments necessary. However, sources said this could be an onerous task, given the fact that more than 1,000 coaches — equivalent to more than 90 trains — have arrived.

The train has been installed with air-suspension cushion springs for a jerk-free journey and better comfort. However, officials said these are posing to be a problem for the train when it is on curves or gradients.

The earlier version of the local train had 'flexicoil,' springs, which absorbed pressure in all directions when a train negotiates curves and gradients. The replacement of flexicoil with air suspension could be one of the factors leading to the new trains going off the track, say officials.

"If you study the derailments on Central and Western railways over the past few years, most of them have happened on crossovers (where train switches tracks) and most on curves,” an official from the mechanical engineering department said.

Railway officials have conveyed this to the top brass of the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is co-ordinating the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project, under which these trains have been bought.

A simulation of the new train's running found that when the wheels negotiate a curve, there is resistance, leading to friction. This leads to derailment.

The air suspension equipment has been successfully introduced in a number of outstation trains. However, these trains have also been installed with flexicoils for additional safety.

However, railway officials said there was no need to panic.

"A new train and technology has been introduced in Mumbai after almost 85 years and it will face such teething troubles. We can always make changes and rectify the error," he added.

MRVC managing director Pramod Chander Sehgal denied that there was any major problem with the new trains.

"The air suspension technology has been used in a few local trains that have been plying for a long-time and there were no complaints. Moreover, all the designs of the new train and safety parameters have been accepted only after the approval of the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the apex research body of Indian Railways."

A.K. Gupta, executive director (Electric Multiple Unit-local trains) with RDSO said: "I can only say that it is not a completely new technology. It has been used in Mumbai since 2001. There are other issues involved."