With the Railways flagging off its first air-conditioned (AC) double-decker chair-car train between Howrah and Dhanbad on Saturday, it has moved into a technological upgrade. Subsequently, India moves into the league of Europe and North America where multi-deck trains are a reality for more than a decade.
“Although India had started it first double-decker non-AC coaches on the Mumbai-Surat line way back in the 70s, it could not really take off,” said a railway official. The double-decker trains are not entirely a new phenomenon in India. For running passenger coaches on diesel traction, tracks have technical standard dimensions which can stand the load of double-decker coaches. “Sleeper-type double-decker trains are also expected by March 2012,” he added.
The double-decker trains are designed indigenously by Research Development and Standard Organisation and developed by Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. The coaches run on diesel traction for now. The train will consist of nine coaches, including seven AC double-decker chair-cars, with 128 seats in each coach. “With 65-70 per cent increase in the carrying capacity, the railways would be able to double its earnings.”
This train will stop at Barddhaman, Durgapur, Asansol, Barakar and Kumardhubi on both ways en-route, though the permissible speed is only 110 km/hour. “The overall height of double-decker coaches has been increased marginally (four-and-a-half inches) keeping in view the constraints such as overhead structures, bridges, electric traction equipment and platforms. These can be used without modifying any of the fixed structures, except for clearing some minor infringements,” the official said.
Space for the two decks has been generated by optimally using the well space between the two bogies. The base of the coach is also below the platform level, said the official. It is using end-on-generation configuration where power for train lighting and air-conditioning is supplied by two power cars, attached at both ends of the train to save the power.
The new AC design has features such as stainless steel body, high-speed Eurofima design bogies with air springs and many other safety-related measures. The coaches are fitted with control discharge toilet system.
When it comes to carrying freight trains, the double-decker option is available for container flats, which are run on Rewari-Kandla port route in India.
Running double-decker freights or container trains on electric traction can be done by increasing the height of overhead electric lines and approvals by the ministry in overhauling the roads over bridges and other structures, said the railway official. As electric traction can bear more axle load and is fuel-efficient, the eastern corridor in dedicated freight corridor is being constructed accordingly.