Railways to go for steel coaches
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The decision to manufacture 650-odd stainless steel coaches costing a whopping Rs 1,145 crore follows the realization that such coaches not only have a longer life owing to their corrosion resistant properties, but they are also longer in size offering 10-12 per cent higher passenger carrying capacity, thereby bringing down the unit cost of transportation.
The Railways plan to eventually stop manufacturing passenger coaches using carbon steel and also phase out its old fleet of coaches once they outlive their age. Rail Bhavan has recently initiated the process of procuring around 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of corrosion resistant steel sheets and plates to feed its coach manufacturing units at Kapurthala and Chennai. The Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala has been tasked with manufacturing 450 stainless steel coaches while the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Chennai would manufacture 200 such coaches. The RCF has already rolled out more than 350 stainless steel coaches for the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains following a technology transfer contract with Alstom-LHB, Germany.
"In addition to their longer life, stainless steel coaches face lesser interruptions due to maintenance or corrosion repair works," said an official referring to the results shown by the Rajdhani trains — New Delhi-Mumbai and New Delhi-Kolkata— which have these coaches. The Railways are also mulling the option of using a special variant of stainless steel (the 301L type) for the exposed parts of the coach with an objective of doing away with painting the exteriors of these coaches. "Besides cutting down on our painting costs, this would give these coaches a silvery look, like that of Delhi Metro coaches, making them appear sleeker," said a railway official.
The Railway Ministry officials said that coaches manufactured using the German LHB stainless steel design are almost 40 per cent less in weight as compared to coaches made using carbon steel. This, said officials, not just allows for greater speed but also helps in saving fuel expenses.
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