The Indian Railways plans to spend around Rs.3,000 crore to make smart yards in order to mechanize maintenance and repair work of rakes, ending a century-old practice of manual inspections.
According to the proposal, 40 of the 100 yards that the national carrier has would be automated and mechanized at an average cost of around Rs.70-75 crore each. To start with, yards at Mughalsarai and Tughlakabad will be made smart yards.
On an average, around 10,000 rakes are inspected manually every month by groups of 4-30 employees, spending as much as six hours per train.
Railway Board member-rolling stock Ravindra Gupta mentioned the plan for smart yards at an international rail conference last week but didn’t divulge details.
A railway ministry official on condition of anonymity said, “Sanctions for these two projects were given during Lalu Prasad’s tenure (as railway minister), after which it took time to make detailed project reports, hold pilots, etc.”
“Bigger yards like Mughalsarai cater to around 450-500 trains a month, while smaller yards do 20-30 trains, so it doesn’t make sense to invest in small plants,” the official explained.
He added that 38 yards that would be developed into smart yards have already been identified and would be processed after a clearance from the Railway Board.
Conceived and sanctioned during Prasad’s tenure (2004-2009), the idea of smart yards was ignored once he demitted office. It got a new lease of life during the Rail Shivir held in November 2016.
The then railway minister Suresh Prabhu liked the idea and decided to go ahead with it.
Another railway official who also didn’t wish to be identified said, “With automation, capacity of maintenance will increase from 10,000 to 15,000 rakes per month. Besides, it would also ensure safety of wagons as we often come across accidents due to human errors.” However, he denied smart yards would mean a reduction in the number of people employed for train maintenance and repair.
The move comes at a time when the national carrier plans to spend over Rs.15,000 crore in the next 12 months to make train travel safe for passengers—rake maintenance and repair are an important aspect of it.