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EMU/MEMU for the future of Indian Railways

By on January 18, 2015

Electrical Multiple Unit popularly called EMU is a very popular train configuration for  sub-urban travel. EMU services are working presently in Mumbai (popularly called Local), Delhi (EMU), Kolkata (EMU), Chennai (EMU), Hyderabad  etc. This configuration of the train is popular not only among commutators but also as a feeder train to main line trains. It is a different story that Indian Railways have not done this to popularize it as a feeder train to main line trains.

Screenshot - 18-01-2015 , 10_18_34

EMU/MEMU trains running in different part of Indian Railway system

These services are very popular among daily commutator for

  • In-time services
  • Reliability in services with very rare failure
  • Very low fare
  • Vendor compartment to carry daily market products such as milk, vegetables, Tiffen supply in offices

It is called Electrical Multiple Unit as it consists of multiple  motored vehicle  built-in the train composition. It offers following advantages, issues to the travelling public as well improving efficiency in the transportation system-

  • It is dis-similar to a locomotive hauled train wherein the locomotive is attached to passenger carrying coaches. EMU has the advantage to reverse at terminal within 2 minutes. In a loco hauled train, locomotivehasto  be reversed at the terminalandminimum 30minutesare required  for the purpose and during that period running of through trains is also restricted.
    • EMU services improve safety because the movement of rolling stock over crossover is reduced which is always a concern towards the safety.
    • It improves the sectional capacity because of no reversal using crossover during that period the receipt and dispatch of trains is restricted.
  • One unit generally consists of three coaches of which one motor coach and shown by nomenclature like 1 (MC) +2 (TC).Theseare multiplied as two, three or four making it a 6/9/12 coach train as generally mentioned at the front of the train.
    • So far maximum 12 coach EMU coach trains are in service in Mumbai
    • Few trains in Mumbai suburban are with 15 trains and limitation is only due to platform length and availability of coaches .
  • EMU services in Delhi were introduced to facilitate easy travel to Delhi population when Delhi hosted 1982 Asian games. It is to be noted that EMU stock is 12 feet wide and accordingly platform at Railway station is designed to suit this width as well as the high level platform. This is because EMU trains are without de-boarding steps. It was for this reason that the introduction of EMU services was limited as it was requiring expenditure to modify the platform of the stations. While extending EMU services in Delhi, all stations on a particular route called circular Railway were modified for this purpose.
  • An innovative thought emerges. It was decided to have 10 foot wide coaches in similar composition so that platform constraint is eliminated. This stock is called Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU). This was an immediate success providing fast and reliable service connecting big cities with smaller urban centers over a length of around 120-160 Km. MEMU services were in line with EMU, therefore, not furnished with toilet facility. For this reason limitation of distance up to 120 Km was fixed. This was one of the passenger grievance and represented at different forum and finally Indian Railway decided to provide one toilet per unit.
  • With the success of MEMU, it was resolved to introduce DEMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) on similar lines for non-electrified route. It was also a great success.

Even with the success of MEMU services as a most passenger friendly mode of conveyance for the masses, it could not be put in with the same enthusiasm over Indian Railways. It was requiring the replacement of existing loco hauled trains by newly manufactured MEMU coaches with maintenance facilities different to what was already  existing over Indian Railways. It is now only that complete shift to MEMU services is possible. Progress of introducing of MEMU and DEMU services over Indian Railways during the last 20 years was very slow.  The success story of MEMU was basically on two accounts, namely reliability and on time run. And so why not stretch this for other long distance trains up to 500 Km. with little modifications.   It is similar to the concept of Train Set in European countries with a few additions such as

  • Toilet facility
  • Few Air Conditioned Coaches
  • Maximum permissible speed raised to 160 Kmph

It is unfortunate that Indian Railway Management is always looking for importing technologies from developing countries but have never encouraged development of in-house technologies. Development of WAG7 and WAP4 locomotive is the manifestation of what in-house development can develop with whatever resources we possess. Now with three phase technologies with bogie designs available, it should not be difficult for Indian Railways to develop Train Set meets the demand of large Indian population.

There is a need to dump words such as State of the Art technologies and Center of Excellence unless it shows in-house ability. The word “State of the Art Technologies” is very popular among decision makers to prove action for import of technologies. If we span the last 50 years of technological developments over IR, there are not many success reports of proving our worth to the world-over. It is important for IR to develop the concept of MEMU as Train set with the technologies already developed and adopted so far with looking for turn-key imports.

MEMU is the most successful and cost-effective option with adoption of few more technologies to match the transport challenge of sub-urban network all around metropolitan cities. It is unfortunate that the city planners like National Capital Region Transport Corporation  is designing an independent suburban network at an outrageous price. In order to justify the IRR, the ridership is inflated by the consultants. The ridership is cleverly inflated with a many riders so that if there is failure, there is an escape route for the advisor. It is unfortunate that the success stories of Indian Railways did not found much proliferation and instead always looking towards developing nations for the solution to our problems. Read more: http://www.railelectrica.com/mass-rapid-transit-system/mass-rapid-transit-system-suburban/

Indian Railway lukewarm concern towards sub-urban transport is visible from the Pass Kilometer growth data of Sub-urban as compared to Urban transport. Since 2009 to 2013, sub-urban growth was only 10.8% as compared to 23.2% in main line trains. The potential towards sub-urban growth is more than main line and infact it can easily be around 25% during this period, had IR shown its concern towards it.Screenshot - 18-01-2015 , 14_11_15

Prime Minister Modi has asked different ministries to judge the value of a proposal based on the services it provides the common man per unit of expenditure. RRTC will never fit into what the Prime Minister has in his mind.

Railways shall look for

  1. Replacement of all slow moving passenger trains by EMU/MEMU type trains in a time bound programme
  2. Design and develop MEMU train to substitute for intercity trains such as Shatabidi and Jan Shatabdi trains.
  3. Develop MEMU/EMU trains to work as feeder trains to main line trains which will be a first intra-house step for multi-model transport system.
  4. Run MEMU/EMU trains on all route connected major metropolitan cities for a distance of 100 Km with frequency service

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