Smaller coaches will compromise commuters’ safety, says agency

The metamorphosis of Kochi Metro to a medium metro rail from the light one as envisaged in the initial stages has triggered questions about the ideal coach width.

The width of each coach was fixed at 2.70 metres in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC) original Detailed Project Report (DPR). This was later increased to 2.90 metres, taking into account the expected increase in demand for the metro from commuters who are expected to shift from buses, cars and two-wheelers.

With two coach-building firms reportedly complaining to the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) that they have been left out of the race for supplying 75 coaches for the metro’s 25 trains, the DMRC claimed that the width specification was increased by 20 cm since the KMRL’s high-power committee wanted a medium metro in which each train could carry more commuters.

The firms had reportedly demanded that the specification be relaxed by 10 cm to enable their participation in the bidding process. “The width of 2.90 metres is followed for all standard gauge metros in India. The civil designs of the 25-km-long viaduct and 22 stations were finalised keeping this in mind. Further revising the width might create confusion and pose safety issues since lessening the coach width will increase the gap between the coach and platform,” sources associated with the project said. The sources said that each train having three coaches would have a ‘crush load’ (maximum passenger capacity) of 600 commuters. The number of seats (laid parallel to the body) is fixed and hence lessening the width will reduce the area within each coach where commuters can stand and travel. The increase in width from 2.70 m to 2.90 m has made the coaches wider by nearly one foot, thus lessening congestion within coaches.

Sources said that the global tender for procuring coaches was called by the DMRC’s head office. “The firms which complained did not even purchase tender forms. Moreover, they have not complained to the head office and instead took up the matter with the KMRL.”

In the backdrop of this, the KMRL issued a clarification on Tuesday stating that it did not change the coach width from 2.70 m to 2.90 m unilaterally. Based on the recommendation in the original DPR, a condition was incorporated in the Centre’s sanction order that the coach width should either be 2.88 m or 3.20 m, for enabling higher passenger carrying capacity. It was stipulated that one of these two options would be finalised after technical analysis.

On the basis of this sanction condition, the KMRL Director Board’s technical sub-committee, which included a director from the DMRC, Bangalore Metro, and the Ministry of Railways decided that the coach width limit should be 2.90 m. It was also decided that this should be considered a ‘broad dimensional upper limit’ so that individual bidders can offer their best solutions that met the metro’s passenger carrying requirements, said the clarification.

More In: Kochi