dna exclusive: Mumbai set to get Medha, first local with indigenous power systems

It is set come in by August from Chennai.

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Come August and Mumbai will see the first-ever local train — EMU in railway lingo — whose electrical systems are completely indigenous. So far, all Mumbai locals with the modern Alternating Current 3-phase IGBT transmission technology have been powered either by Siemens or Bombardier.

The new rake, powered by Hyderabad-based firm Medha Servo Drives, will be a major test for the Indian Railways, according to officials, as it looks towards increasing the production of local trains for various metros without depending on imported technology. The new Medha rake has been under construction for the past couple of years and is now in its final stages, said officials in the know.

A top-ranking railway official said that the rake, the first of the two being built at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, should in all probability be sent to Mumbai by August. It will be first run on Western Railway (WR). "The Mumbai suburban railway is one of the densest and most demanding railway sections anywhere in the world. If this train, with Indian-made electrical traction motors and train control mechanisms, is successful in Mumbai, then it is going to be a game-changer for the railways. It will truly be the start of the 'Make in India' phase in the Electrical Multiple Units (EMU) sector for the railways," said the official.

The rake will be a completely stainless steel one, like the two Bombardier rakes currently running on WR, but will have some design changes — mostly cosmetic — from both the Siemens and Bombardier rakes, said officials.

While Mumbai's suburban system has had Indian-made power systems, mostly by Bhopal-based BHEL in the good old days when the traction on both Central and Western Railways was 1,500 Volt Direct Current (DC), conversion to 25,000 Alternating Current (AC) meant Mumbai's locals either had Siemens or Bombardier power mechanisms, both multi-national companies.

"When it comes to MNCs, there are problems with patents, transfer of technology and the like. It is always better to have local expertise as, apart from ease of business, it leads to huge savings in foreign exchange. The building of local trains that was well and truly local was long overdue and it is good that the railways is moving in that direction," said another official.

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