Writing is like T20 batting. If you block, you might as well retire to the pavilion! -- Pete Langman
Expat in Germany

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rail India Rail!!

One might always wonder, 'why a separate budget for railways in India!' Well you wouldn't ask if you dig just a little into what wonders this public enterprise is doing out there! Mahati is working on a research problem to look into how the oscillations of a train coach depend on its speed. She went about researching on what factors decide the speed of a passenger train in India and found out that it depends on details which she never bothered about ever!! Certainly, running a train in India is more complicated than manning a flight anywhere.

Mahati first went to the public relation officer to request access to details of train functioning and train accidents. In the building, she is surprised to see posters everywhere saying one thing: save energy. Indian railways would be soon moving to LEDs everywhere, solar powered stations at major junctions and the south central railway already uses 5% biodiesel. Plants are under construction to recycle water used in the railway station to grow plants and beautify the station premises. Mahati approached a peon, for it is such people who know the best as to what lures who in any department. All he had to say was that it is practically impossible now-a-days for corruption in railways. Thanks to the digital revolution, even contracts are mostly given out through e-tenders. There is pension adalat that takes place every month. The offices are all exceptionally well maintained. Railway stations are also quite well looked after, if not for public littering every where.

Yes, it s true that the Indian railways tries to offer the best it can, where as those benefiting by it are not that generous. That brings the topic of train accidents. While atleast 70% of train accidents are those where a tipper lorry has collided into a train at unmanned crossing or that a lot of people die when they try to cross the tracks instead of using the railway over bridge or an inflammable material being carried illegally by a passenger goes off, it is quite appalling to know that the majority of casualties that occur are those which occur to passengers who foot-board when they have ample space inside. Mahati felt disgusted when she read about an accident which occurred because bicycles were hung from the train windows. We definitely need to learn to respect the train transport.

It might be proud to think of bullet trains in India. But the speed of a train depends on hundreds of factors. One, the tracks, of course. In India, the most disastrous thing for a bullet train is the rail. Experts from China and Japan have been warning us about the curvy rails we have. We do love curves, yes. But not in railways. If we need faster trains, we need straight, level tracks which is not possible in the present scenario. Well, how could it be possible when a passenger in the last coach can see the engine and the front the coaches! Second, signalling. The red-green signal we just notice while we are on a moving train serve a lot of purposes including measuring the train speed and wheel rpm. The coaches, the couplers between coaches and other parameters are the third important parameter. It is interesting to know that the gravel which is around the tracks has particular measurements and there are complicated machinery to take care of this size. A trolley goes on a track, inspecting: keeping those which comply the required range  and discarding the rest. With the new forged wheel system, average speed would go as high as 150 kmph for certain trains with disc brakes reducing the wear and tear to a large extent.

Not an easy job. From signalling to coach design; from metallurgical technology to environment management to catering services, there is a lot to be taken care of in the Indian railway and there is hardly any research going on in this huge industry which is the eighth largest employer in the world! Certainly, all that bullet train money could go into R&D in railways-will lead to faster and safer trains. It would be good if Indians realise the importance of railways. Indian trains carry as much as Australian population everyday! Proud of Indian railways!