Overloaded freight trains matter of concern for Railways

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New Delhi, Feb 21 (UNI) With rail tracks and bridges showing signs of tottering under the weight of overloaded freight trains and higher axle load operation, experts and officials today said the Railways would need to take corrective measures to achieve the target of 110 million tonnes of freight traffic by the end of the Eleventh Plan (2007-12).

''With the limited experience of 25 tonne axle load freight trains, it is noticed that rate of wear and tear has increased, especially on weak areas in track. To some extent, overloading above the permissible limits might be responsible for the same,'' Mr Satish K Vij, Member (Engineering), Railway Board, said.

He was addressing a two-day seminar on ''Heavier Axle Load - Experiences on Indian Railways in regard to running of multiple locos, longer freight trains and its impact on fatigue life of track, bridges and formation'', organised by Institute of Permanent Way Engineers (IPWE).

Several advanced railways are running heavier axle load up to 39 tonnes. Indian Railways have also become a member of the International Heavy Haul Association by running 25 tonne axle load trains on certain identified iron ore routes as a pilot project in 2005.

As of now, 22.3 tonne axle load trains have been universalised and 22.9 tonne axle load trains permitted on more than 21000 km of Indian Railways.

''The challenge before us is to permit higher axle load on a sustainable basis. We have to ultimately achieve the goal of running 25 tonne axle load trains on most of the existing network for streamlining the Railways' freight business,'' Mr Viz said.

He said the turnround of Railways would become sustainable only if it was founded on a superior value proposition for the customers both in terms of prices and quality of services. This can be done only be reducing the cost of operations and improving the speed of trains, reliability, punctuality and safety.

''The only strategy for achieving this ambitious goal is to increase the core strength of railway network -- running faster, heavier, longer and higher (double and triple stack) trains,'' he said.

About the measures being taken to allow running of higher axle load feight trains, he said, the Railway Ministry had put in place a policy for track renewals, doubling, gauge conversions and new lines fit for carrying 25 tonne axle load wagons.

Lubrication of rails will be done with mechanised means while a digital recording of wear and tear of tracks will be introduced progressively.

Further, instrumentation of select bridges has been undertaken for monitoring the effects of higher axle loads on bridge components.

Minister of State for Railways R. Velu, in his inaugural address, said 29 tonne axle load trains were being operated on only 1000 km along the Golden Quadrilateral route.

''Nothing would be done to compromise the safety of track and bridges,'' Mr Velu said. He, however, called for consistent and concerted efforts for monitoring the freight load of trains.

The Railways earn two-thirds of its revenues from freight and arried out 728 million tonnes of revenue traffic last year. This year it is likely to surpass 785 million tonnes of freight traffic.

UNI/SKS SHB RN1606

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