Commuters in Mumbai are expected to just grin and bear the inconvenience of having to climb on to local trains that are higher than what the railway rules, and plain commuter comfort, prescribe. That’s because there are just two ways to set things right.
One is to make changes in the train, something every official involved with their making said is next to impossible as the train’s design has been crystallised over the past couple of years.
The other option is to increase the height of platforms from the current highest point of 840mm to 920mm. The hitch here is it involves a very tedious process of rule change as the height falls within something called the railway’s Schedule of Dimensions (SOD).
Changing anything in the SOD takes a long time as it involves taking inputs from several bodies, right from the experts at the Research Design Standards Organisation — the railway’s apex technical authority — to other agencies, such as the Commissioner of Railway Safety.
The only way to get around this lengthy route is to go for something called condonation — railway lingo for a bypass of rules under unavoidable circumstances.
Sources at Western Railway said they have asked the railway ministry for a condonation because waiting for the railways to change its all-encompassing SOD would take a long time.
“Moreover the first two Bombardier rakes, which have floor heights in excess of the prescribed limit, will start running in a few weeks and serial production and induction of the 70 other rakes will begin from April. By the end of March 2015, we should be having close to 30 such trains. Hence, it is imperative that the condonation comes in fast so that commuters can get some relief,” said a senior railway official.
The last time WR had asked for a condonation was to avoid raising some important road bridges between Mumbai Central and Churchgate while converting its electrical systems from Direct Current to Alternating Current. A similar condonation by the Central Railway, asking that it be excused from lifting certain bridges between Kurla and CST as part of the CR’s electrical conversion, however, is pending with the railway ministry.
Officials said the main culprit in the new rakes is the larger air spring, which, while giving a better ride, ensures that the gap between the floor of the train and the platform does not vary. “The metal spring in the old trains would compress when the train was fully loaded, thereby maintaining the gap. But there is no way we can change this as these are modern equipment built for better rides,” said an official.
As per the Schedule of Dimensions...
760mm to 840mm is the stipulated height of a platform from the tracks
1,187mm to 1,197mm is the stipulated height of the floor of the train from the tracks
1,220mm is the height of the Siemens rakes
1,230mm is the height of the Bombardier rakes
250mm is the stipulated height of an air spring
258mm to 260mm is the height of the air spring in the Bombardier rakes
342mm to 437mm is the stipulated gap between the train floor and the platform
470mm (maximum) is the gap because of the Bombardier rakes.