Railway Reforms

Why freight trains are switching to aluminium wagons?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Benefits of Aluminium Wagon


The Union Railway Minister has recently flagged off the country’s first freight train with an all-aluminium wagon rake.

What is the news?

  • This move is a part of the country’s ambitious plan to modernize rail transportation and facilitate large carbon savings.

Aluminium-bodied trains

  • Indian Railways proposes to shift its passenger and freight operations gradually to aluminium-bodied trains.
  • A blueprint for its production and introduction was finalized even before the onset of the covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Modern Coach Factory (MCF) at Rae Bareli has signed a transfer of technology contract with South Korea’s Dawonsys for such passenger coaches in early 2020.
  • The execution of the project was held back because of the pandemic and its fallout.
  • These coaches will be rolled out now.

What is the plan for their introduction?

  • At present, India’s high-speed trains, including the Rajdhanis and the Shatabdis, use Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches that are made of stainless steel.
  • Only the interiors use aluminium, which makes them lighter as compared to conventional rakes.
  • The Indian Railways plans to procure 400 new generation Vande Bharat train sets with better energy efficiency and passenger riding experience.
  • The use of aluminium body coaches in these new generation trains will be considered.

Will aluminium trains reduce carbon footprint?

  • Aluminium trains consume less energy.
  • Besides, the metal is recyclable.
  • It is estimated that switching to aluminium will save 1,500 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
  • With the Railways planning to deploy over 100,000 wagons in the coming years, the potential annual CO2 reduction could be to the tune of over 5 million tonnes with a 15-20% shift to aluminium wagons.

Material advantages of aluminium

  • These coaches, being lighter than stainless steel ones, are preferred for higher speed systems.
  • They are lighter by up to 30% compared to stainless steel coaches.
  • They offer low haulage cost and higher payload, better fuel efficiency and lower pollution levels.
  • Also, aluminium trains take less time to manufacture and thus can help speed up capacity for production.
  • The new metal trains will help the Railways hike its share in overall freight transportation from the current 18%.

What about the cost of building?

  • An all-aluminium passenger coach and wagon system would raise the cost of manufacturing rolling stocks by about 35% since the price of aluminium, globally, is far higher than that of steel.
  • However, the advantages of the metal outscore its high price. It is estimated that as the metal is recyclable, the new coaches would have up to 80% resale value.
  • The recyclability will also help in times of global volatility in metal prices.
  • This is why aluminium trains command a lion’s share in the US, Europe and Japan.


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