The Modern Coach Factory of Railways in Rae Bareli has submitted a proposal to multiply its yearly production capacity by five times to 5,000 Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches every year from the current 1,000, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said Friday.
On the plan to completely switch over from the conventional ICF design coaches to LHB, Goyal said production of ICF coaches across India would stop by the middle of 2018. This would be the biggest capacity ramp-up by a coach factory ever in India.
“Rae Bareli has already sent me a proposal to multiply their capability to produce 5,000 coaches of LHB every year. We are working to convert all ICF factories across the country so that by the middle of 2018, we will discontinue ICF coaches and only make LHB,” Goyal said at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express. “In the next four-five years, new India will also mean ICF becomes history,” he said.
Goyal has already set a priority for the ICF factory in Chennai to double its production capacity of making LHB coaches to over 6,000 coaches a year.
The reason, he said, is safety.
“I did the math and a study of the past few accidents, and I found that in most of the LHB coaches there has never been a fatality. What happens is… the coupler technology is good, it doesn’t climb one on top of the other. Even if there is derailment or collision, it stays there. Lives are generally not lost,” he said.
Describing the antiquated ICF coaches as “before I was born”, Goyal said the LHB coaches were the best the Railways had at the moment. “While I am scouting for more modern technology, the best we have today is LHB, and the advantage is that chances of fatal accidents reduce very drastically in an LHB coach,” he said.
He pointed out that the Utkal Express, which derailed in August and killed 20 people and injured over 90, had ICF coaches.
Goyal’s predecessors have been unable to ramp up LHB coach production despite agreeing to the policy that ICF should be phased out. His predecessor, Suresh Prabhu, too wanted complete conversion to LHB stock but it did not take off.
Of the around 60,000 passenger coaches with Railways, only around 10 per cent is LHB.
On bringing in the Army to build three foot overbridges in Mumbai suburban stations, Goyal said it was concern for safety that made him bring in the Army, and that the bureaucratic process of tender and budgeting would have delayed work.
“It was important to get things going on mission mode. I located there is the only organisation… to which I could give out the job without a tender… which has workmen of their own, design engineers who are better than the best in the world, with equipment that no other government organisation has,” he said.
He said it was Ashish Shelar, chief of BJP’s Mumbai unit, who suggested the idea first on October 6 while meeting him and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “Army has been deployed in Commonwealth Games also. Someone could have asked (if) Commonwealth Games was that important to bring in the Army. The Games would have served how many people? Not even a million? Here, I am serving 8 million passengers day in and day out. And their safety is my primary concern,” he said.