By bappaditya paul
Metro Railway has failed to fix the teething trouble in its air-conditioned (AC) rakes in nearly three years since the first AC rake was introduced to the Metro fleet. Metro Railway now has 13 AC rakes and on an average they encounter three snags a month, throwing up the schedule of six lakh plus commuters up side down. In the first quarter this fiscal, from April to June, Metro trains reported 15 snags; majority nine in AC rakes. In 2012-13, snags in AC rakes were 32 out of the total 63 reported.
The nature of the snags that make the AC rakes stall is recurrent and has been there ever since the first Ac rake was introduced to the Metro fleet on 7 October 2010. These include ~ brake binding, malfunctioning of control circuit, faults in power circuit and battery failure.
Of them, brake binding, which means non-releasing of the brake when a train is ready to leave a station and leads to smoke emission from the undercarriage, is so common that every single Metro commuter has heard of this at least once.
There is another issue that is bothering the commuters ~ leaking of water from AC vents inside the coaches. “Water simply dribbles down the AC vents, sometimes even making it impossible to stand or sit in some parts of the trains. I have witnessed the trouble intensify on humid days,” said Mr Anup Baroi who takes the Metro everyday from Dum Dum to reach central Kolkata. In 2011, when snags in the AC rakes were more frequent, Metro authorities had summoned experts from Knorr-Bremse, Germany, in whose collaboration the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory had manufactured the AC rakes. Knorr-Bremse experts on that occasion spent months at the Metro’s Noapara car-shed and succeeded to fix problems relating to the train doors.
They also imparted training to Metro officials on maintenance of the AC rakes, but after near three years it has now become apparent that either the maintenance job is not being done properly or the rakes have inherent maladies that keep on resurfacing.
A senior Metro official said that lack of resource ~ both financial and material ~ was an impediment for proper upkeep of the rakes. “Having said this, let it be clarified that snags in trains are not unusual; our target is to minimise it to the extent possible. Such snags are even common in Delhi Metro.” A Delhi Metro spokesperson however said that their rakes “barely report one snag in two months.” “The troubles that we encounter are mostly related to overhead electric (OHE) power supply and auto application of emergency brakes. We never ever had the problem of water leaking from AC vents inside coaches.”
Delhi Metro now has about 200 rakes manufactured by Bombardier (Canada) and Rotem (South Korea).
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This is an elaborate version of the report that first appeared in The Statesman on 4 August 2013 under a different headline.)