The induction of the new Bombardier rake, which the Western Railways had said was just a few days away in early August, is unlikely to come into public service till the end of October. This is because one of the most important tests on the new rake – coupler force trials – is yet to be conducted on it.
Mandatory test yet to be done
As the name suggests, a coupler is an equipment that binds train coaches so that they remain one comprehensive unit. Such tests on locals meant for Mumbai are conducted on the Central Railway – the gradient of its ghat section is considered an ideal route to check the strength of a coupler.
While officials, who spoke to dna in the past couple of days, attributed the delay in deployment of the rake to non-commencement of the coupler force trials, Commissioner of Railway Safety (Central Circle) Chetan Bakshi said that he had asked the authorities concerned almost five months ago to do the tests. "It is mandatory that the coupler force trial be done on any new rolling stock (rake). I do not know what has caused the delay but rules are rules and they will have to be followed," Bakshi told this newspaper.
The Research Design and Standards Organisation is currently conducting various trials on the Bombardier rake on both WR and CR, and will submit its report to the railway board. Once the board gives the all-clear to the report, the local will be handed over to WR for inclusion in its fleet.
Why is this test so important?
Railway officials said that the coupler test on the Bombardier rake had become all the more important because there have a been a few instances of coupler failure on CR in the past months, leading to derailments.
"De-coupling of trains is among the most serious of mechanical problems in a rake. It can cause large-scale derailment of coaches and in a crowded system like Mumbai, can lead to deaths. At higher speeds, the kind the Bombardier rake is capable of achieving, it can be a disaster," said a top-ranking official.
Learning from the past
The railways was left red-faced on February 17 when a Kurla-Kalyan service 'broke' between Diva and Kopar stations. The train was packed with commuters – it being a rush-hour train – and officials admitted that it was sheer luck that a larger tragedy was averted.
Again on March 20, a Kasara-CST train went off the tracks between Titwala and Ambivali and this time, breaking a coupler. Ghatkopar resident Mayur Lodya died in the accident.