Dual voltage EMUs for Mumbai suburban railway

CHENNAI, NOV. 29. After decades of delay, the first step towards modernising the Mumbai railway suburban sector was taken with the Minister of State for Railways, R.Velu, today launching dual voltage stainless steel electrical multiple units (EMUs) in the Integral Coach Factory here.

All suburban services in Mumbai are powered by DC (direct current) voltage while the standard for the country is 25,000 volt AC (alternating current).

"There were proposals to convert the Mumbai sector into AC even before I joined," recalled a senior electrical officer, who joined in the early 1980s. But it did not take off because three zones were involved and the authorities did not have the option of shutting down services even for a day. "In Chennai, the crossover from DC voltage to AC voltage happened in the early 1960s," said a Southern Railway official. "Here we get up to a five-hour gap in the night for carrying out any work. In Mumbai it is hardly three hours." Hence the inordinate delay.

Additional transformers

"Not a train more can be introduced in Mumbai. The advantage of AC over DC is that you need one transformer for every 15 km. In the case of Mumbai, additional DC transformers are being built for every 3-5 km to meet the increasing demand. Now there is no space for putting up more transformers," said an ICF official.

The improved EMUs could operate in both DC and AC voltage. They would reach Mumbai in 20 days. The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation — which ordered the EMUs — would begin tests in the sector.

108 rakes

"After improvements and fine-tuning, a total of 108 rakes, each costing Rs. 18 crores (nine cars to a rake) will be built in the ICF over the next year and a half," Mr.Velu said. "We have to first get the report after test runs. Only then can we go for production of rakes."

Traffic and Electrical Officials estimate that work on the conversion of the Mumbai sector cannot commence without at least 70 per cent of the rakes reaching Mumbai.

Mr. Velu said the new coaches had many additional passenger-friendly features.

The new coaches did not need clearance from the Lucknow-based Research Design and Safety Organisation (RDSO) as they were only additions. However, the electrical part of the coaches would need the RDSO seal.

Cash award

Mr. Velu gave away a cash award of Rs. 1 lakh to employees who worked on the prototype. "That works out to Rs. 7.69 for each of us who worked on the project," said an employee. "In any case, the cash component in Railway awards is always meagre. We are happy that we get an entry in our service records," he said, as his colleagues nodded in agreement.

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