NEW DELHI: The tragic rail accident in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh has again brought into focus issues in rail safety. Indian Stainless-Steel Development Association (ISSDA) has reiterated importance of railway coach designs to avoid loss of lives involved in train accidents.
“If all the railway coaches in the country could be made of stainless steel instead of carbon steel, it can bring down the number of lives lost in train accidents significantly,” asserted KK Pahuja, President, ISSDA. As per provisional government figures, train accidents claimed 122 lives in 2015-16 and 238 in 2016-17.
The Anil Kakodkar High-Level Safety Review Committee in March, 2012 mandated a complete switchover of railway coaches from ICF coaches to the much safer LHB coaches within 5 years. Currently, Indian Railways use stainless steel coaches in LHB designs only for Rajdhani, Shatabdi and other premium trains.
LHB coaches are designed to be anti-telescopic, which means that they do not pile up over each other in the event of derailment. Stainless Steel coaches are stronger and absorb more energy during collision; they can withstand considerable impact without fracturing. Since it progressively crumples from the point of impact, risk of injury and fatalities are drastically reduced.
The use of stainless steel in passenger coaches is a common practice in developed economies such as USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Korea & Australia and many East Asian countries. Other than trains, even buses and trams extensively use stainless steels in their outer panels. Stainless steel coaches also ensure safety and reliability through super fire and corrosion resistance.
The intrinsic weight of vehicle decreases, thereby increasing its load carrying capacity and fuel efficiency. In case of accidents, stainless steels undergo lesser deformation, which further helps in rescue operations.
In the Muzaffarnagar accident, the number of casualties was far higher than it could have been, had precious time not been lost in reaching passengers trapped due to mangled train parts.
In India, a substantial amount of downtime and cost is incurred on account of carrying out maintenance activities in coaches and wagons. Not only does it cause inconvenience to passengers, it also results in significant outflow of money on account of repair, maintenance and labour related expenses. Replacement of carbon steel coaches with stainless steel drastically reduces maintenance related costs and time. Besides, stainless steel is completely recyclable and therefore, environmental friendly.
Pahuja added, “In India, over 23 million people commute through trains in India on a daily basis. There is an urgent need to migrate to stainless steel coaches to improve safety of rail passengers. Fortunately, Indian Railways are already seized of the matter and taken up programme for increasing manufacture of LHB stainless steel coaches.”