Guwahati-Bikaner Express Accident

Guwahati-Bikaner Express was going from Bikaner to Guwahati when it met the fatal accident at Maynaguri in West Bengal. Till now, the accident claimed the lives of 9 people. 36 passengers are injured of which 6 are in critical condition. The passengers with critical injuries have been shifted to Jalpaiguri and Siliguri. The railway line is yet to be cleared, and most trains are now running through an alternate route.

At 5 pm on 13th January 2022, 8 coaches of Guwahati-Bikaner Express derailed from the tracks. Initial reports suggest technical failure of the locomotive was behind the cause of the derailment. Experts have found out that one of the traction motors of the locomotive failed and gave way which caused the WAP-4 locomotive to derail along with 8 other coaches immediately behind it. According to the loco pilot, he immediately applied emergency brakes which caused the speedy rakes behind to smash against one another. The ICF coaches have a tendency to climb over one another during an accident and it happened with one of the coaches. The obsolete nature of the WAP-4 locomotive, which is no longer produced by Indian Railways is also questioned. The rusty nature of old tracks and sleepers in that area have also come under discussion.

The villagers came to the rescue operations after hearing loud noise during the accident. Till now, all passengers have been rescued and all bodies have been recovered. The injured are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. The Railway Minister of India visited the site on the morning of 14th January 2022 and announced a compensation of 5 lakhs for the deceased, 1 lakh for the critically injured and 25000 for the ones with minor injuries. An investigation by the Indian Railways is now underway, though people doubt if it would result in any positive outcome.

The number of accidents in recent years has greatly decreased. Technical failures and mistakes by the men in operation have been reduced to 0 in recent 2-3 years. Also, no major accidents have taken place due to trespassing after the Amritsar incident. It is after a long time a railway accident occurred, and it is a big accident. The latest derailment proved that we still have a long way to go to ensure our railways reach the accident-free level as in developed countries.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Why Vande Bharat Express can be a Game Changer

Modern transport relies on high-speed, luxury amenities, quality service, and reliability. Hence, modern train services are increasingly becoming high-speed in many developed countries. Looking at them, some developing countries, including India, aspire to have a high-speed train service similar to Shinkansen, Eurostar, or Shanghai Maglev.

Vande Bharat Express, or Train-18 as it was previously known, is an indigenously designed and manufactured semi high-speed train set, which is believed to revolutionise Indian Railways. Vande Bharat express is an EMU like a train set, with faster acceleration and braking. Vande Bharat express can achieve speeds up to 180 kmph during trials but is restricted to 160 kmph for passenger operation, and 130 kmph for the current routes as the existing infrastructure cannot provide support to trains running at more than 130 kmph. The fastest train in India is currently the Gatimaan express, which runs at 160 kmph only for a short stretch between Delhi and Agra, where the tracks are capable of supporting high-speed rail.

Currently, a very small percentage of length of tracks are capable of supporting semi high-speed trains. Even that length do not have OHE modification, fencing, track isolation from roads and paths. Also, more lines are needed to accommodate slow passenger and goods trains running on these tracks. Developing works are underway in Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai lines, and these lines are expected to carry trains at 160 kmph from 2024. Goods trains are also being shifted to dedicated freight corridors in these sections. Also partially laid 3rd and 4th Iines in these routes are expected to be complete very soon. Most bullet trains across the world run over upgraded existing tracks instead of over greenfield elevated corridors. Even major rail networks around the world conducted surveys and proclaimed that India has an excellent broad gauge railway network which is most profitable for running bullet-like trains at semi-high speed.

If Vande Bharat trains become a common feature in Indian tracks, there is hardly the need for under-construction elevated Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Alwar, Delhi-Panipat, Kerala Silver Line railway corridors. High-cost elevated corridors in standard gauge, in parallel to existing tracks, with no connection between them may render the corridors economically unfeasible. Jaipur metro and Noida metro are examples of a failed rapid transport system where the existing highway and roadway systems proved better working than the metro. While elevated corridors are a good option for 3rd and 4th lines, they should integrate with the existing railway system in India to enhance the Indian Railways, and not become solitary lines on their own. Indian Railways has much to develop, and it is on the right track of development. Let us hope that vote bank politics and public outcry for swanky metros do not cost Indian Railways its indigenous projects.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Vistadome Coaches – A New Craze or a New Innovation?

Indian Railways contain some very beautiful and scenic train routes in the countryside. Exploring the countryside by train is one of the best and cheapest means of travel in India. To enhance the experience of a memorable journey, Indian Railways are looking forward to revolutionizing passenger comfort and making them at par with the ones in foreign countries.

Vistadome coach is a new concept emerging from tourist trains in Europe, which provides a greater outside view than the normal coaches. Vistadome coaches contain very large glass windows for a clear view outside. Additionally, the roof of the train also contains glass slabs that offer views of the sky and above the head. Diffused lighting and rotatable chairs are unique features of this train. The executive chair car of trains going through scenic routes is slowly being replaced by these ultra-modern coaches.

Vizag-Araku valley train route is the first train route to get a Vistadome coach way back in 2017. The second route to get a Vistadome coach is the Konkan route between Mumbai and Goa. The third Vistadome coach was launched in the narrow gauge Shimla-Kalka heritage route in 2019. Then after the second wave of Covid-19 in India, 5 more Vistadome coaches were introduced in the Mumbai-Pune route, Mangalore-Bangalore route, Darjeeling-New Jalpaiguri heritage route, Siliguri-New Jalpaiguri route, and Guwahati-New Haflong route.

Passenger amenities have been kept in mind while designing the coaches. Every passenger will now get a charging socket, a food tray, a personal reading lamp, apart from wider leg space, larger windows, and an open verandah at the back. At present, no food is given to the passengers due to Covid-19 scenarios. However, as the train stops briefly in many stops along the route, ample time has been given to the passengers to hop off and buy food from the platform stalls. Overall, despite higher costs, Vistadome coaches have been welcomed well by tourists, rail-fans, as well as common travellers who prefer cleanliness, hygienic and ambience over the slightly higher cost.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Economy 3AC Coaches in Indian Railways

Indian Railways have now started producing Economy AC 3-tier coaches in the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Under the new interior design, the number of seats will increase per coach from 72 to 83. This will result in an increased number of passengers boarding the same train. The question is, will it not reduce the leg space, or will it bring comfort to the boarding passengers. Read this article to know more.

AC 3-tier is the most profitable coach type for Indian Railways when it comes to revenue from passenger traffic. Hence, Indian Railways is giving no stone unturned to explore new ways of providing passenger comfort, and giving greater chances to occupy a 3AC seat. Over the years, modern LHB coaches have provided more seats in a train than older ICF coaches. Railway engineers have found out a major flaw in AC rakes on which they have started modification. This new economy 3AC class is a result of correcting the design flaw.

3AC Interior Bunks

AC coaches require switch gears, transformers and other electrical devices which eat up a lot of space inside the coaches. Engineers have now planted these devices under the coaches, suspending them from the bottom of the coaches between the bogies. It freed up enough space for the addition of another 11 seats in AC 3-tier coaches. This will not compromise on the leg or luggage space previously available to the passengers. The same formula can be applied to AC 2-tier coaches, chair car and AC First Class coaches, which may increase their capacity. For a trial, this has been applied only to 3AC coaches as these are the most profitable coaches of Indian Railways attracting a lot of passengers, who want to put a lot of expenses, and at the same time get good facilities as well.

Moreover, no extra profit will be earned by the Railways, as the prices of Economy 3AC coaches will reduce by 8% of normal 3AC coaches. The reduction in fare of 3AC coaches will attract more passengers who previously travelled in only the non-AC sleeper class. In the long term, the loss-prone non-AC sleeper and second seating class will be completely replaced by profitable AC coaches, be it chair car or sleeper. The economic coaches, being new, will have modern amenities like personal reading lights, personal AC outlet, personal charging socket, which are essential requirements to most passengers.

3AC COach Toilet

Will all these attract more people to take the train to their travel destinations? The initial results of revamping rail coaches with modern facilities have been a success. The Prayagraj-Jaipur express is the first train to get Economy 3AC coaches in view of demand. 2 more trains, New Delhi-Lucknow AC special and Lucknow Mail, will be allotted Economy 3AC coaches very soon. So plan your next ride in an Economy 3AC coach with a flushed interior and reduced price to your next travel destination.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Metro to Dakshineshwar

23rd February onwards, you can take a metro to reach the famed Dakshineshwar Kali temple on the outer fringes of Kolkata. PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the final 4.2 km extension of the old North-South metro from Noapara metro station to Dakshineshwar on 22nd February. The stretch will be open to the public from 23rd February.

Though the stretch was relatively short, it took ten years to be built. The main problems were land acquisition, for which the project was on hold for more than seven years. But as soon as the state government resolved all land acquisition issues, it took hardly three years to construct the viaducts and finalize the stations. 2 stations, namely Dakshineshwar and Baranagar Road, are added to the North-South metro.

The stretch was equally crucial for the local commuters as the nearby Tallah road bridge was closed for traffic in 2019, resulting in congestion of remaining roads in the area. The metro line passes adjacent to the Eastern Railway Howrah Bardhaman chord line from Dum Dum junction to Dakshineshwar. The Eastern Railway tracks have few local trains; thus, the metro will be a boon for the daily commuters from and to the city’s northern fringes. The 4.2 km journey will take place in just 3 minutes, including the halt timings at Noapara and Baranagar.

Metro trains can interchange tracks between Baranagar and Dakshineshwar metro stations as the line abruptly ends in Dakshineshwar metro station. There is no provision for further extension of the North-South metro as of now. However, the line will have an interchange at the Noapara station where the under-construction New Barrackpur-Noapara line will meet the existing North-South rail line.

Now you can visit both the Kalighat Kali temple and that at Dakshineshwar using the same metro, which will now take less than an hour. The entire journey from Kavi Subhas to New Garia will cost just Rs. 25, which was the maximum fare previously. Being owned by the Indian Railways, the Kolkata Metro is the cheapest and one of the busiest metro in the country.

Moreover, the residents of the congested Bally and Belur area of Howrah can now easily access the metro just by crossing the Vivekananda Setu. The residents of Sodepur, Belgharia, and those coming from the north via the Barrackpur Trunk road, can board the metro at the Baranagar metro station. The daily ridership is expected to increase by at least one lakhs after the Covid-19 situation normalizes.

Kolkata metro is one of the slowest expanding metros in the country. While some lines have issues related to land acquisition, the others’ progress has been plodding due to bureaucracy, inadequate fund release from the Indian Railways, technical and construction problems, lack of systematic approach. Being one of the biggest metropolitan in the country, Kolkata needs its metro network to expand at the earliest.

The Phoolbagan-Howrah Maidan stretch, the Joka-Majherhat line, and the New Garia-Airport line remain under construction for ages. The Noapara-Airport line is also far from completion. It’s time the Railways and the State Government give utmost priority to the most needed stretches of the Kolkata metro, which is the oldest and the first metro to be operated in the country.

For more details about how it will benefit commuters – click here.

Written by – Himadri Paul