India’s railroads will soon see rolling stock made from lightweight aluminium after the country’s railway authority approved of a plan to purchase aluminium coaches from a domestic manufacturer last week.
According to officials, India’s Railway Board has approved of a plan to purchase aluminium coaches from Modern Coach Factory (MCF) in Raebareli. The Board asked for a yearly production of 500 such coaches, but MCF indicates that the goal of the initial phase will be a yearly total of half that.
In comments to the media, MCF general manager Rajesh Aggarwal pointed out the distinct advantages to building rolling stock from aluminium.
“Aluminium coaches have the advantage of lesser weight and better corrosion resistance. Lesser weight results in savings in haulage costs and better acceleration/deceleration.
“Better corrosion resistance would result in lesser maintenance requirements in the workshops. They will also last longer than the traditional LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches.”
Although New Delhi has been using aluminium coaches for some time now, the technology for building longer-haul coaches is somewhat different, requiring the importation of the necessary knowledge from abroad.
“Since Indian Railway does not have the technology to manufacture these coaches, we will first have to bring it in,” explained an unnamed railway official. “It will cost around ₹150 crore. In the second phase, when the proposal is to manufacture 500 coaches per annum, additional ~₹62 crore will be required.”
According to the official, the project’s rate of return has been calculated to be between 25 and 30 percent, which is well above the 15-percent threshold at which the government declares the venture to be commercially viable.
“Many countries have adopted aluminium coaches as they are rusting free, can last longer; their cost of maintenance is also less. This is the right time to go for aluminium coaches,” opined former Railway Board chairman R. K. Singh to local media.
In the meantime, MCF is busily increasing production capacity. The firm has a current nameplate capacity of 1,000 units, but an investment of ₹480 crore will soon see that number double.