Can Talgo Break the Speed Barrier

It seems that India is soon going to have its first high-speed railway network, one that can be much quicker than the express trains running in India, such as Rajdhani and Duronto, to name a few. Talgo, a maker of high-speed trains from Spain, can help India achieve this dream. It is expected to introduce a train that can cover the distance of 1388 km between Mumbai and Delhi in 12 hours or less and it is going to do that with its lightweight coaches. At present, Rajdhani is the fastest train between these two cities with a time of 16 hours and 10 minutes. If Talgo is successful, it would reduce the time by four hours.

A formal approach from Talgo

It was Talgo that had made a formal approach during July 2015 to Indian Railways, presently being led by Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu. The company says that its coaches are much lighter than the average coaches of Indian trains. Recently, a test run of its coaches was conducted at a stretch between Mathura and Palwal and the train clocked speeds of 180 km per hour. This achievement by coaches drawn by an Indian engine is unprecedented. At the present moment, the coaches are being tested by Indian Railways so that a proper assessment of the organization’s claims can be made and its compatibility with regard to Indian tracks tested.

A first of its kind trial

Vijay Kumar, who works as the Executive Director, Infrastructure at Railways Board has stated that these trials are the first of their kind being done by the Indian Railways. According to Kumar, the organisation normally tests all the coaches that are newly designed. However, in case of Talgo the tests are being organized over three levels and this is the first time that such a thing is being done. The trials are being conducted by Research Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO), Indian Railways.

More details on trials

The first couple of stages have already been completed. The third level had started during the first week of August. After the tests are done and results or reports are analysed, a decision on granting them permission will be made by Suresh Prabhu.

Final stages of the test  

In the final stages, the coaches were made to operate on the route between Delhi and Mumbai. They are being driven by a diesel engine with 4500 Horsepower. Vijay Kumar has stated that Talgo has claimed that it can complete this distance in 11 hours and 38 minutes while travelling at speeds of 150 kmph. The coaches were tested on the said track at speeds of 130 kmph and 150 kmph. Incidentally, this route is also operated on by Rajdhani. Talgo says that at the speed of 130 kmph it would take 12 hours and 47 minutes to complete the journey. The second trial in this stage was meant to look into some changes that needed to be made from a technical perspective. The third trial in this stage was the most crucial one since the coaches were made to run at 150 kmph from Delhi and Mumbai and any decision regarding Talgo would be taken on the basis of the success of this particular test.

In fact, the company has already been successful in the final 150 kmph test, thus can be said to have made a strong case for itself to be introduced in India’s railway domain. M Jamshed, Railway Board Member (Traffic), stated that the distance was covered in 11 hours and 42 minutes. It left Delhi at 14.45 hours on 10th September and reached Mumbai at around 02.33 hours on 11th September. The technicians of Talgo attended the test, along with staff members from the Indian Railways. The lightweight coaches of Talgo have tilting technology. The coaches also had a similar trial between the said destinations on 7th September – this time around the coaches ran at a speed of 140 kmph.

The second stage of trials

The second stage of trials started from 9th July and continued till the final week of the said month. It was during this stage of trials that the coaches attained top speeds of 180 kmph. The distance between Mathura and Palwal took just 39 minutes to be covered. In the first phase of this stage the coaches were run without people. Later on, they were tested at full capacity.

The first stage of tests

In the first stage, the coaches were tested by RDSO in areas such as stability and safety. Kumar had also stated that by the looks of it everything was okay. In this stage the trains were tested on the line between Bareilly and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. As per Hamid Akhtar, the Executive Director (Testing) at RDSO, this stage is known as field verification, where the prototypes are normally tested. According to him, the coaches were tested with regard to their reaction to speed and various parameters on curvatures and straight tracks. Transducers were used to draw conclusions through recordings and readings. This was supposed to judge how well the coaches were performing.

The railways authorities also tested the coaches on various parameters to see how safe they were vis-à-vis Indian tracks. At this stage, the trains were operated between speeds of 80 kmph and 115 kmph. Talgo’s coaches have a couple of executive class cars, a cafeteria, four chair cars, a power car, and a tail-end coach where all the equipment and staff members operate.

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