With multiple questions being raised regarding safety in the aftermath of Indore-Patna Express derailment which left 150 people dead, Indian Railways is planning to stop the production of conventional ICF coaches by 2017 and shift completely towards the LHB coaches, which are highly safe in case of accidents or derailments as per a report. The German technology based Linke-Hoffman-Busch (LHB) coaches are currently manufactured in India at Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala and Rae Bareilly. The ministry has currently set a target of production of 1600 LHB coaches per year from 2018, which might be increased.

Kakodkar committee has suggested the railways to immediately stop the manufacturing of ICF coaches and replace all the ICF coaches with LHB by boosting up the manufacture of LHB coaches. LHB coaches are made of light-weight but extremely strong stainless steel which can withstand shocks of collision and derailment. The coaches are anti-telescopic, which means that they do not overturn or climb on each other during derailment, resulting in almost no loss of lives. Most of the trains (about 90%) in India run on ICF coaches, which have screw coupling. In case of an impact, the screw breaks up and the coaches fly apart, climb on each other and get badly damaged resulting in massive casualty, as happened in Kalka Mail and Indore-Patna derailments.

The efficiency and safety of LHB coaches have been proved quite a few times. In the wee hours of June 25 2014, an accident similar to Indore-Patna derailment had happened when 12 coaches of Guwahati Rajdhani Express had derailed near Chhapra. Despited the severe intensity of the accident, only 4 people lost their lives and less than 10 injured. The reason was LHB coaches that are present in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express trains. The LHB coaches have CBC (centralised buffer coupling), which do not let the coaches get disintegrated and fly apart in an event of derailment.

Since converting all the ICF coaches to LHB coaches may take decades (as more than 90% trains run on ICF coaches), railways are planning to replace the less safe spring coupling with more safe CBC coupling in the existing ICF coaches at a cost of about 5 lakh per coach in a phase-wise manner. Also, all the new ICF coaches that will be manufactured will have CBC coupling as Indian Railways plans to get rid of the spring coupling in coaches.

Kshitij Mohan

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