A set of 65 newly-designed lightweight rail coaches representing an investment of nearly Rs 100 crore is lying idle because the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) has refused to give Railways a mandatory clearance.
The CRS is demanding that Railways demonstrate the passenger carrying ability of the coaches, known as LS-3, by conducting trials with 400 people on each coach. The Railways has turned down the proposition, arguing that safety and speed trials of new coaches are done using the designated weight and not people on board. “Nowhere in the world are trials of rolling stock conducted by making people sit in them. They are always done with weight, which is the right thing to do from engineering point of view,” said a senior Railway Board official.
Railways’ Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) has already conducted successful trials by running LS-3 coaches with 18.5 tonnes. The CRS was just required to give a customary clearance, which it has refused, saying suspension of the new coaches might not stand overloading, a common occurrence in Railways.The Railway Ministry has told the CRS that the suspension of LS-3 coaches is superior to the earlier version of coaches called LS-2 which are running successfully for past one year. Countless meetings for the better part of the year have failed to break the impasse, during which time Railways has incurred a loss of Rs 30 crore for not being able to utilise the coaches for commercial purposes.
In a letter to the Chief CRS, Railways has also said that introduction of many new trains announced in Rail Budget is being held up because of the unavailability of the coaches. Introduction of lightweight rakes is one of the issues directly monitored by the PMO. Decreasing the weight of coaches results in saving fuel apart from other benefits.
After a recent meeting with CRS did not show signs of a breakthrough, Railways Ministry has started exploring the option of utilising a 14-year-old legal opinion from Law Ministry, wherein it was decided in the eyes of Railway Act, 1989, that in cases of such a logjam involving CRS, Railway Ministry was the ‘central government’ which is empowered to take a final call. An internal note was issued in Rail Bhawan to take this course of action.
Commissioner of Railway Safety (Central Zone) Chetan Bakshi told The Indian Express that he has received a clarification from the RDSO and the matter might be resolved soon. Railways says that it will wait till the end of the month. If the approval does not arrive by then, it will go ahead without the CRS clearance.