At the onset, it was viewed as a move essentially aimed at ensuring the smooth flow of a multi-crore loan from Japan for the western section of its ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC). It has instead made Indian Railways set an unexpected world record, one which it is now planning to get certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Railway Ministry’s decision to conduct field trials to ascertain whether double-stack container trains can run under Over Head Equipment (OHE) has made it the only railway in the world to run a train under a 7.45-metre-high contact wire.
The successful trial has already made Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav announce a Rs 10-lakh award for the electrical directorate officials. The trial has also led the ministry to seriously consider the move to electrify the 1,483-km-long Western DFC, which in turn, will ensure faster and smoother processing of the Japanese loan. What the move has also done is initiate a discussion on how it could in future facilitate introduction of higher passenger coaches, having more carrying capacity, running on electric traction.
The feat was achieved recently when trials had been conducted on a 24-km stretch between Jakhapura and Daitari in Orissa. The Railways achieved the task by first raising the height of the overhead electric wire to 7.45 metre from rail level and then getting a modified pantograph to touch that wire to haul the train.
As officials from Railway Board, Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE), East Coast Railways and an expert team from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) watched trial after trial between July 6 and July 9, they were pleasantly surprised with the result. “There was a spark-less current collection with absolutely smooth transition of the pantograph from conventional to higher height OHE contact wire. We tried various combinations of locos and currents and concluded that the system was fit to haul double-stack container loads on conventional flat wagons,” an official involved with the project said.
“A 7.45-metre-high contact wire is the highest anywhere in the world, the next highest being 7.1 metre used in the US and 6.6 metre used in China for running double-stack container trains. With the kind of modifications we have done to the pantograph, we may even go up to 10 metre in future if required,” a senior official supervising this project said.
Generally, trains on electric traction are run under 5.6-metre-high wires. Since the Indian Railways planned to operate double-stack containers on flat wagons on its Western DFC, it had originally decided that the corridor would be operated on diesel traction. However, a feasibility study conducted by JICA suggested that the Indian Railways should go in for electric traction on this corridor.
While the JICA favoured electric traction on the argument that even as it required a higher initial investment, it would prove to be more cost-effective in the long run, the Japanese Government has made it clear that any loan for the project would depend on the corridor’s electrification. Faced with the situation, the Railways had decided to go in for these trials.
Another feather in cap
• A 7.45-metre-high contact wire is the highest anywhere in the world for running double-stack container trains
• The next highest being 7.1 metre, used in the USA
• The third highest is 6.6 metre, used in China
• With the kind of modifications done to the pantograph, the height may go up to 10 metres in the future
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