The Integral Coach Factory (ICF) has rolled out its first stainless steel state-of-the-art Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB) design coach that was fully developed with in-house expertise.
Though the ICF had acquired the German design technology for LHB coaches a few years ago, it was, hitherto, engaged only in shell and furnishing works for such coaches and using indigenously developed bogie fitment.
The LHB design coaches coming off the ICF assembly line had speed limits of about 140 kph, against the over 200 kph for end-of-generation LHB coaches manufactured by the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala, the premier LHB coach production centre in the country.
“Now, we have developed the first end-of-generation LHB coach completely with in-house expertise,” an ICF official said.
The AC 2-tier LHB coach was recently flagged off by Alok Johri, Member, Mechanical, Railway Board, who was in Chennai to hold discussions with ICF general manager Ashok K. Agarwal and other senior officials. The ICF has targeted production of 25 LHB coaches this fiscal. The ICF’s larger goal though is to completely switch over from conventional SG (self-generated) coaches, which for decades has been its core expertise, to the stainless steel bodied LHB coaches in the next few years.
The advantages of LHB coaches include better fire-retardant ability, anti-toppling features, sleek ergonomics and higher service life compared to conventional rakes.
Even though manufacture of LHB coaches costs three times (about Rs. 1.50 crore per coach) more than conventional variants, the extra expense is offset by their higher carrying capacity (six extra berths in 2-tier class and eight more berths in 3-tier class) and lifecycle that can bring down the per kilometre transportation cost of the Railways by as much as about 15 per cent.
ICF sources said the approximately Rs. 215-crore expansion plan to have a dedicated production unit for the LHB template is in its final stages.
The ICF plans to commission the LHB production unit by the middle of 2015-16 and during that fiscal expects to go full tilt with the production of 100 LHB coaches.