Tilting trains will improve speed of trains at curves through existing tracks only by up to 15%, said managing director of K-Rail Ajith Kumar V., in an interaction with Engineers Club members here late on Friday evening.
A few engineers countered this, saying tilting trains negotiated curves at much faster speeds than conventional trains in a few dozen countries, including in Europe.
They also spoke of two versions of tilting trains they travelled on — active and passive — the apt one which could be zeroed in for use in Kerala (around 600 curves on State network – one among the highest in India). When such trains can use the existing broad gauge track, why invest in the ₹63,794-crore SilverLine project which will have severe financial and environmental implications, they asked.
In his reply, Mr. Ajith Kumar said tilting trains would improve speed only between 10% and 15% on curves which constituted about 36% of the total rail length in Kerala. “This will save time by approximately 10%. This is one reason why Talgo tilting trains that were tried on the New Delhi-Mumbai corridor were discontinued by the Indian Railways. However, such trains could be used through the SilverLine alignment, if maximum speed has to be increased from 200 kmph to 250 kmph,” he said.
Alok Verma, a detractor of SilverLine, had cited how operating tilting trains through the existing broad gauge tracks, after strengthening the tracks and introducing automatic signalling, would increase the speed of trains by 30%.
Mr. Verma, who retired as Chief Engineer from Railways, was among the experts who worked with the Paris-based consultancy Systra for preparing the feasibility report for SilverLine.
“All this will cost only ₹15,000 crore, less than one-fourth of the current projected estimate of SilverLine, and will be a cost-effective alternative,” he told The Hindu on Saturday.
“This will result in tilting trains being able to cover the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod distance in seven hours. This can further be brought down if steep curves are realigned in a phased manner.”
Rebutting Mr. Ajith Kumar’s claim on speed of tilting trains, Mr Verma said the Indian Railways had sent him to Sweden to study tilting train technology.
“It can be adopted irrespective of the gauge. Even countries such as Spain, which have broad gauge, have been running them for the past 25 years. I am willing to have an across-the-table discussion with officials of K-Rail and Systra. Kerala is the apt State where the technology can be introduced, since there are curves aplenty on rail tracks. China adopted tilting train technology a decade-and-a-half ago for its first high-speed train,” he said.