Railways' plan to replace conventional coaches with LHB coaches for their enhanced capacity to absorb derailment impact is on slow track despite the urgent need for it. Coaches of the ill-fated Diwa-Sawantwadi passenger train, derailed between Nagothane and Roha railway stations, about 120 kms from Mumbai today, killing 17 passengers, were conventional coaches, which are prone to capsize in case of derailment.
The LHB coaches, equipped with advanced couplers and anti-climbing features, prevent capsizing of coaches in case of accident. This helps to minimise damage and reduce the loss of lives because the LHB bogies do not get toppled due to its modern design. While two coaches derailed, two coaches were capsized after the derailment of the passenger train today and maximum casualty occured in capsized caoches, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
However, the official said railways is planning to switch over from indigenous coaches to German technology-based Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) ones in all trains in phases only. Currently, railways manufacture about 600 LHB coaches in Rail Coach factory in Kapurthala and Rae Bareli per year while about 3,000 conventional coaches are being produce at Integrated Coach Factory in Chennai. LHB coaches, made of stainless steel, have more in-built safety features and can absorb shock and impact of derailment more effectively.
According to the official, there is also a need to equip drivers and guards with battery operated cutting tools to speed up evacuation of passengers from capsized coaches. Battery-operated cutting tools can be made available to driver and guard for cutting windows of capsized coaches for evacuating trapped passengers before the arrival of accident relief train (ART). "One has to wait for the accident relief train to reach the site before starting the evacuation process. The battery operated cutting tools can be used in emergency to cut windows of the capsized coaches to extricate passengers in emergency instead of waiting for the ART," the official said.