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.
- 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.