Commuters struggling through the humid summer in crowded locals may have something to cheer about soon, with the Railway Board planning to introduce air conditioned coaches. A Railways official said the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) will be floating a global tender for 34 12-coach AC trains, which will be split in two and attached to existing suburban trains.
“The tender will specify that the AC train’s software should be compatible with that of at least one manufacturers of existing rakes.” Most of the rakes used for suburban services are made by Bombardier and Siemens.
The six AC coaches, or half a train, will also have a motor car, the official said. Sources said both Siemens and Bombardier were consulted on the technical feasibility before the decision was taken.
A Railways official said some logistical issues are expected. “The non-AC section of the rake will definitely be more crowded, which means one part of the platform will be more crowded. We are working on measures to decongest platforms at several stations, and many of these are in various stages of implementation, including more foot overbridges and removing obstructions. These measures will be revisited if partly AC rakes are to be introduced.”
The partly AC local was announced by Union Minister of Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal while inaugurating the Andheri-Goregaon Harbour Line extension on March 29. He had also said the AC coaches will have two passenger classes.
The Railways was faced with two options: rakes with three or six AC coaches. “The six-coach arrangement was generally favoured as it seemed technically more feasible,” an official said. The AC local recently introduced by Western Railway has six coaches connected via vestibules.
According to the Railways, partly AC rakes will mean more AC coaches during peak hours. Presently, the AC local runs only two services during peak hours. Many commuters have complained that as the AC local is a part of scheduled services, the wait for a non-AC local becomes longer. The AC local, built by Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, does 12 trips on weekdays. Six more AC rakes are expected to be added by year-end.
The partly AC rakes will be in addition to the 47 AC rakes and 210 AC rakes that the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation will be procuring under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 3 and MUTP 3A.