CMRL deviates from standard set by Delhi Metro amid questions from experts and litigation

In a shift from practice, Chennai Metro Rail Ltd. (CMRL) has adopted a new fastening system for its rails.

By doing so, it has become the first Metro Rail system in the country to depart from the preferences of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (DMRC), its prime consultant.

DMRC has been using Vossloh 336 fastening system, designed and manufactured by Vossloh AG, Germany, and introduced in India by the Patil group.

It has recommended the same to Metro Rail in other cities. According to DMRC, the Vossloh fastener meets the stipulated conditions and “facilitates the breathing of girders independent of rail fastening”.

While Bangalore, Kochi and Jaipur have gone by DMRC’s recommendation, CMRL has decided to choose a different system offered by Pandrol Rahee technologies, a joint venture of Pandrol Group, UK, and Rahee Group, India. This decision has gained spotlight since the fastening system is at the heart of safety debates as witnessed in Delhi.

The tracks and fastening used for Metro Rail are unlike those in conventional rail systems. The rails are laid on precast concrete slabs without ballast and the fasteners hold the rails with the supporting structure. The fasteners, in particular, have to endure heavy load and high speeds of up to 120 km per hour.

The decision of a fastening system must be handled with utmost care since any misstep could compromise safety. Three months ago, the clips that fastened the rails to the track of the Airport Express Line in Delhi, the only line built under public-private partnership, cracked when trains reached high speed. Even after reducing the speed of trains, the problem persisted. As a result, the entire line was shut down.While Reliance Infrastructure which runs the airport line blamed DMRC for forcing the fastening system on it, DMRC blamed Reliance Infrastructure for poor monitoring of civil structures.

CMRL’s choice of a new system under the current circumstances is contested by litigations that surround procurement of the fastening system.

When contacted, CMRL did not answer questions about the choice of a new system and said it “has not awarded any contract” to that effect. However, the Pandrol Rahee group has posted on its website that it has “bagged the orders” for Chennai Metro Rail and Chennai MRTS Phase-II of Southern Railway.

Last year, Pandrol Rahee Technologies unsuccessfully challenged DMRC’s preference for Vossloh in the Competition Commission of India, a statutory authority meant to ensure fair competition and protect consumer interests. It alleged that DMRC unfairly facilitated “the procurement of Vossloh Systems 336 and excluded all other fastening systems.”

A set of questions was mailed to CMRL to understand the selection of Pandrol Rahee fastening system and its safety review. Asked if the Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) of the Railways had reviewed the new system, CMRL replied that only RDSO could answer that.

To another question on other companies that were considered along with Pandrol while choosing new fasteners, CMRL said “it does not have any list of companies.”

CMRL said it “followed the technical specifications stipulated by the Ministry of Railways”. The Pandrol Rahee group did not respond to any questions.

This article has been corrected for an editing error.

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