Calcutta Metro rake contract given to factory with no experience in making Metro coaches
A railway-owned factory with no experience in making Metro coaches has been given a contract to build six new rakes for the north-south and East-West Metro, officials said.
The Railway Board decided to award the contracts to the Raebareli-based Modern Coach Factory (MCF) after the rakes built by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Perambore, developed snags. ICF, too, had no previous experience of building Metro rakes.
The rake whose door didn’t open even after a passenger’s hand was trapped on Saturday was one of the six latest ones manufactured by ICF. Sajal Kumar Kanjilal, 66, was dragged along the platform before being flung into the tunnel.
Some Metro officials blamed Kanjilal’s death on the failure of the train’s safety mechanism.
MCF, commissioned in 2011, is now preparing the designs for the new Metro rakes.
Engineers from MCF recently visited Calcutta Metro’s maintenance unit in Noapara to study the design of the existing rakes and a new one that has come from China.
“We are planning to implement the design of the Chinese rake on the north-south line. If we try to do something new, the rake will have to undergo a series of safety tests and that will be time-consuming,” a senior MCF official told Metro from Raebareli. “The rakes will be made of aluminium instead of steel and will be two tonnes lighter.”
He said the target was to manufacture the rakes in eight to nine months.
“We are planning to build the East-West Metro rakes keeping in mind the quality of design in coaches manufactured by leading global companies such as Bombardier,” the MCF official said.
ICF still has an earlier contract of building 26 rakes for Calcutta Metro, while China’s CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. is manufacturing 14. Bangalore-based BEML has already supplied 10 rakes to the East-West Metro and is manufacturing three more.
Some railway officials said the quality of rakes manufactured by companies selected through tenders were likely to be better than those built by the railways’ own units.
Dalian was chosen through a global tender. A global tender was also floated for the East-West Metro but only BEML had taken part because the project had been uncertain.
There was no tender for the latest six rakes manufactured by ICF for the north-south line.
“We have submitted a demand for another 10 rakes to the ministry because once the ongoing projects are completed, we’ll need more trains,” an official of Calcutta Metro said.
The first two of the four new rakes manufactured at ICF arrived in July 2017. A series of trials revealed various technical problems, including alleged flaws in design.
The rakes were also found to be generating higher radio frequency waves than permissible, which threatened to impair the Metro signalling system along with mobile phone and television transmission.
Even after three rakes were commissioned, frequent snags continued. In June this year, engineers from ICF came to Calcutta to try and fix the problems. One of the rakes had to be taken back to Perambore for troubleshooting.
“If the manufacturing company is chosen through competitive bidding, then the quality is more or less assured. But when the contract is given to a unit with no experience in building
Metro rakes, which needs very specialised design skills, the product can be of inferior quality,” a railway official said.