“We have the capability to redesign, but our responses are conditioned, so we thought there is no harm in getting fresh inputs,” Hemant Kumar, member (mechanical), Railway Board, told Business Standard.
The design for the ladder was mentioned by Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu when changes were being identified, Kumar said. Ladders in passenger coaches earlier had only two steps but then a third one was added.
“We are studying whether a fourth step can be added. But the challenge is the side upper berth, where you climb in one direction and then turn,” he said. The climbing device could be in conjunction with something else, like a holder.
Ladders, toilets and colour schemes have been identified as areas for redesign. Toilets, for instance, must improve over the existing design and remain clean during a journey.
Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) designs trains and coaches, which after being approved by the Railway Board goes to the Rail Coach Factory and Integrated Coach Factory. The initiative with NID is for out-of-the-box ideas.
The memorandum of understanding between the railways and NID last month allows for an offsite facility within the RDSO campus. Design ideas for station architecture, coach interiors, platforms and circulating areas will be exhibited at the Manaknagar station, close to Lucknow, which serves RDSO.
The railways have created a corpus of Rs 10 crore, with the interest on this amount funding some of these designs. Shortlisted ideas will be tested and studied by the respective directorates.
Another important experiment is on how to prevent dustbins from overflowing. “We are trying a compactor. The initial design has been tried in one coach in Central Railway,” said Kumar.
Existing dustbins hold 20 litres. The railways are working on 35-litre bins and then on adding compactors to these. “We are evaluating whether existing dustbins can be retro-fitted. Users must not be injured by the compactor,” Kumar said.
The railways are also trying a new way of powering coaches. Power to coaches is supplied from cars mounted with diesel gensets to meet the requirement for air-conditioning, lighting and fans, called the hotel load. But diesel locomotives are also power houses on wheels. So, two locomotives can be attached on either side of a train and the noisy power cars make way for additional coaches. Since a locomotive has a far more efficient engine than a diesel genset, fuel can be saved. If the hotel load is low at a point, the balance power can be used for traction. More passengers can be carried in less time and the line capacity increases.
Hotel load has been tried in the Ajmer-Rewari train set. “We can start regular service with passenger trains during peak summer. The cost of laying an extra line is Rs 8-9 crore per km. If the throughput increases through this, it is worth it, even if it means more locomotives,” Kumar said.
From cost efficiency point of view, the Railways is also trying a completely new model of powering coaches. The concept of hotel load has been tried on five trains.
Power to coaches is conventionally supplied from power cars which make a lot of noise. These cars have diesel gensets mounted on them to meet the entire power requirement of air-conditioning, lighting and fan which is called hotel load.
The new idea is based on the concept that diesel locomotives are also power houses on wheels and can generate power. So, two locomotives are attached to either side of the train, and instead of the power cars, two additional coaches are attached to the rake.