Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the research arm of Indian Railway, recently acquired a simulation software to assess the behaviour of the spread of fire, heat and movement of smoke as part of measures to enhance passenger safety, RDSO Director General V. Ramachandran said here on Friday.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Emerging coach technology’ hosted by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), he said that the fire retardancy norms of coach materials had been upgraded to meet the norms of SNCF, the company that supplied the computer-aided fire simulation facility, the first of its kind in the country.

RDSO has also developed a fire detection system to detect fire in the coach and give alarm. “However, a reliable solution for detection of fires in non AC coaches still eludes us. The non-AC coach is unique in the sense that it has an uncontrolled environment whereas most fire detection systems are able to perform only in controlled environment. False alarms have been known to induce panic in passengers leading to multiple cases of injuries due to passengers jumping off moving trains.”

Another step towards mitigating consequences of a collision was the development of crash-worthy design of coaches that would reduce fatalities, Mr. Ramachandran said. Currently, work is on to evolve standards for dust ingressin non-AC coaches and also take effective measures to reduce noise levels, as presently standards for both these do notexist. Recently, RDSO floated an Expression of Interest for fitment of on-board diagnostic systems.

With higher speeds and heavier loads, Indian Railway is increasingly looking for improvements in brake systems, couplers, wheels, axles and other bogie components as well as in coach interiors. In all these aspects, the inputs of industry were important, Mr. Ramachandran said.

Following recent Supreme Court pronouncements, the Railways was also introducing automatic closing doors and bio-toilets in trains.

On the competition from low cost airlines and road transporters in the short/medium distance travel segments, he felt that the best strategy for the Railways was to consolidate the rail share in long distance and medium segment by increasing the commercial speed of passenger trains, introducing fast services between metropolitan cities with speeds up to 160 kmph and having high speed corridors between metros as envisaged in the Vision 2020 document.

ICF General Manager Abhay K. Khanna said capacity expansion at the ICF to be operational by 2015 would involve a scaling up to 1,700 coaches annually, including the manufacture of 300 stainless steel coaches. At present, the ICF had a capacity of around 1,600 coaches across 500 variants.

Mr. Khanna pointed to the Twelfth Plan projections of requirement of 24,000 coaches by 2016-17 and the Railways’ Vision document’s projected coach needs of 50,880 by 2020 and the vision of Railways for modernisation of rolling stock — switch-over to LHB designs, raising crash-worthiness, introduction of faster trains and automatic fire alarm systems.

Rakesh Saksena, Managing Director, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation, said the acquisition of ICF coaches had helped the suburban system in Mumbai, which transported 7.4 million commuters every day, significantly add line capacity and reduce overcrowding by 18 per cent.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National