Train 18, developed indigenously by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), offers not only a fast and comfortable mode of transport. The engineless train also provides safety to passengers as its coaches are fitted with fire-resistance fibre composites.
"The interiors of the coach have been made up of composite materials, which are fire resistant," ICF General Manager Sudhanshu Mani told IANS over phone from Chennai.
He said the interiors were manufactured in the country and the ICF gave sourced the fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) from manufacturers in Chennai. "After the manufacturers delivered the FRP materials, it was fitted into the Train 18 at the ICF plant in Chennai," he said.
The ICF General Manager said that all the panels inside the Train 18 coaches are built with composite material.
A senior railway ministry official said that the FRP has been used in the Train 18 sets to make it more power efficient and lightweight which enable the train to move faster as compared to other train sets currently in service in India.
The official pointed out that the FRP materials are very light as compared to those made of steel and aluminium.
Train 18 is currently undergoing trials under the supervision of Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow. It has successfully completed the trial up to a speed of 180 kmph.
The official said that Train 18, which is self-propelled on electric traction like metro trains, will start replacing the existing train fleet of the Shatabdi Express next year.
As per the railway ministry plans, the ICF will make six such train sets, out of which two will have sleeper coaches.
The new train has a number of features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully-sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting, and disabled-friendly toilets.
Pavwan Droliaa, Managing Director of Asterix Reinforced Limited which manufactures composite materials, said that the material used inside Train 18 coaches not only makes it light but also improves its power efficiency.
"As a lightweight, high-strength, environment-friendly product, it helps in reducing the overall weight of the train coach by about 50 per cent as compared to any other train coaches," he said.
Explaining the advantages of the composite material in the Train 18 coaches, he said that it also gives freedom of design, to make all kinds of interior and exterior parts and it also allows the use of aerodynamic exterior parts, to reduce the energy consumption of the train.
He said that in case of fire these composite components do not generate poisonous gases, collapse, or spread molten material or droplets, thus keeping escape ways open for passengers to get out.
A Selvam, Executive Secretary at FRP Institute in Chennai, said over phone said that the composite material helps in reducing the maintenance costs of the railways.
He pointed out that the Indian Railways has started using modular toilets in the train made up of composites. Selvam also said that the composite material can be used for making high strength seats for train coaches.
Selvam pointed out that the composite material also aid in the dampening of vibration to reduce noise levels and improve passenger comfort.
He said, "As compared to steel coaches these coaches are more durable and due to lightweight these trains easily accelerate and decelerate."
"The composite material can also help in reducing a number of small parts as these are combined and moulded into a single piece," Selvam added.
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