Here's some good news for commuters on both Central and Western Railways. Both have started phasing out old trains that have crossed the age limit of 25 years. On the one hand the Central Railway (CR) has planned to phase out its oldest lot of 20 trains in the next six months, while on the other the Western Railway (WR) recently condemned (taken out of service) two trains that had technically surpassed the age limit.
Only six months ago, there were more than 25 trains that were more than 25 years old on both lines, some crossing even 35 years.
Presently, the CR has around 180 coaches (about 20 9-coach trains) that have crossed 25 years, but continue to be used after undergoing constant rehabilitation and maintenance. "These are the old trains running on 1,500-kilovolts (Kv) Direct Current (DC) line and would now be replaced entirely within six months," a senior CR official said.
The CR, however, is on a back foot when compared to the WR as they have 18 more trains in the 15-25 year age bracket, even after they scrap the current lot. In terms of the newer lot of trains, the WR again has 30 more trains in the bracket of 0-15 years. However railway officials believe that this will change once CR starts receiving its quota of new trains under the MUTP phase-II, which is set to begin in 2011.
The major problems with these old-age trains are that they cannot take the dense crush load of commuters, which are more than 12 people per sq feet of space especially during morning and evening peak hours. The railway officials have quite often found crevices and minor cracks in the floor, apart from weak cables and wires used in connecting each coach and running the train.
The WR will replace these old trains by providing 200 coaches that are less than 15 years. The process has already begun and 36 coaches have already been transferred. "We have taken all the 25-year-old trains from service and passing over those coaches to CR that have residual life left," S Gupta, chief PRO, WR, said.
The constant maintenance and periodic overhauling - that happens once in 18 months for every train -cannot revive a train entirely once it crosses its age limit. Meanwhile, those coaches whose age is more than 10 years would be used on Harbour line while those below 18 years would be converted at cost of Rs 9 crore by CR thus allowing it to operate on 25000-kv Alternating Current (AC) line.
"These coaches made available to us would be retrofitted and converted till the time it is economically viable. The old trains will run until it meets safety standards and will later be condemned," said CR chief PRO, S Mudgerikar.
Usually once a train completes 25 years, they have to go through a process of rehabilitation where every thing on the exterior and in the interior including overhead cables, body repair, internal copper wires, and their metal outfits are stripped and changed. This happens every 5 years till the time they are able to take the burden of a complete makeover.