The ‘Make in India’ effort of Indian Railways which has culminated into a world class train termed the ‘Train-18’, is under attack from vested interests. The impact of this train, matching global standards of performance, safety and passenger comfort and yet costing less than half of global prices, has the potential to cause major upheaval in the world train business. It has also adversely impacted the interests of the individuals and groups within the country, who seem to be more interested in imports than developing in-house expertise. It is noteworthy that that Railway Gazette, an International Rail Publication, has covered Train-18 in detail in its news on 23.10.2018. Yet the naysayers within the country do not like it. Just like ISRO which brought about a revolution in the satellite launch business across the world with its low cost yet highly reliable technology, the indigenous design of the Integral Coach Factory has the potential to shake up the high-speed train-building industry of the world. This train, though designed for a maximum speed of 160kmph has the potential to go up to 200kmph if matching track, Over Head Equipment and signaling infrastructure is in place.
The train is equipped with travel classes identical to a Shatabdi Train. It aims to provide an entirely new travel experience to passengers. All coaches are equipped with audio-visual passenger information system, on-board Wi-Fi and very comfortable seating. All toilets are vacuum type identical to those in aircraft. The lighting is dual mode, viz. diffused for general illumination and personal for every seat. Every coach has a pantry with facility to serve hot meals and hot and cold beverages. The insulation is meant to keep heat and noise to very low levels for additional passenger comfort.
Following has been the sequence of events in this venture of Indian Railways while building Train-18:
- A formal sanction for the same was received in April 2017. The train has been built in less than a year and half from scratch i.e. design to launch, a feat unprecedented in the international rail-road industry which takes 30-36 months to achieve the same.
- After the flurry of in-house design and computer modeling, the first coach of the 16-coach train began to be built on 9th February 2018. The train, fully assembled was on track in October, 2018 and was ready for testing.
- The testing protocol has following steps:
- Static testing of onboard systems – lighting, air conditioning, operations of automatic doors, computer circuits, and interoperability of various sub-systems. The computer software was largely tuned at this stage. This stage was completed on 25.10.2018.
- The train was flagged off by the Chairman, Railway Board on 29th October 2018, the day which became a matter of pride for every Indian.
- The train underwent the low speed trials between ICF (Anna Nagar station) and Villivakkam, a distance of 1 km. Such a short distance does not permit higher speed build-up. However, many important systems were tested such as operations of brakes, interaction of the pantograph with overhead wire, familiarity of driver controls (Loco pilot), and high voltage tests to the extent possible at a speed limit of 30 kmph.
- During the low speed trials a problem of harmonics was noticed, which led to blowing up of fuses, an activation of safety at sub-stations and on some locomotives in the section. These fuses are meant to blow in case of unforeseen harmonics in the system and that is what happened. The locomotives were promptly put back into service, the sub-station attended and a feedback was given to ICF. ICF, subsequently, further tuned the onboard software for traction and regenerative braking to eliminate harmonics. This was done within a day of reporting. This is a normal phenomenon while developing any new alternative current traction system. Contrary to alarmist reporting, nothing was burnt.
- The train subsequently was dispatched to Delhi to be taken to its homing shed at Shakurbusti for pre-trial checks. The train was dispatched on Sunday the 11th November 2018 and reached Delhi on 13th November 2018. The train was hauled “dead” by an additional locomotive since it was not certified to run on its own power enroute. Certification to run on all routes is given only after extensive trials. Current certificate is valid only for Moradabad-Bareilly and Kota-Sawai Madhopur sections. However during its travel from Chennai to Delhi at full sectional speed all its mechanical systems such as wheels, springs, pneumatic suspension and pneumatic brakes as well as its dynamics proved satisfactory.
- The train was shown to the media at the Safdarjung Railway station on 14th November 2018. The interiors were kept locked since they were loaded with sand bags in passenger areas to simulate passenger load. Also, due to its instrumentation, it could not have been opened to a large number of curious onlookers. Even the Member Rolling Stock refrained from entering the train.
- Medium speed trial of Train-18 will be conducted between Moradabad and Bareilly over the next few weeks. These tests will be done at a maximum speed of 120 kmph and will lead to certification of performance and safety of the train. Vast instrumentation has been provided on the train by RDSO for this purpose. These tests will certify that Train-18 is fit on all tracks of Indian Railways at a speed of 110 kmph.
- High speed trials will be done between Kota and Sawai Modhopur after the Moradabad trials. These trials will be done a maximum speed of 180 kmph and will certify 160kmph operational capability of the train apart from safety features and reliability at this speed. It is expected that these trials will be completed before the end of this year so that the train can be put into service for Indian public.
The train is much more than what appears to a casual visitor. Hard work of completely in-house design and manufacture, computer modeling and working with a large number of suppliers for system integration has been involved. ICF has achieved all these in a short span of 18 months. All Indians should be proud of this. This train by itself is capable of 200 kmph speed, provided that the rest of Indian Railways system such as tracks and signals are permitted. The major systems of the train that have been designed and built in India are given below.a) The complete body shell of stainless steelb) Propulsion (traction) system, including power electronics
Bogie, wheels, air springs, bearings
- Entire interior panels and insulation
- Air-conditioning system
- Aerodynamic nose cone
- Driver controls
- Complete Computer system, including the software
- The Passenger Information System and on-board Wi-Fi and entertainment
A miniscule portion has been imported, which too will be indigenized once ICF purchases them in larger volumes.
Regardless of the propaganda of the naysayers, Train-18 is a testament to Indian engineering and a success story of ‘Make in India’ and it should be celebrated as such.