Even as the triple train disaster in Odisha last Friday claimed more than 270 lives, a rolling stock officer of the South Eastern Railways was thankful for a “silent saviour” — Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches – which he claims reduced the toll to at least half.
The Coromondal Express rammed into a stationary goods train from behind at a speed of 128 kmph. It was a 23-LHB coaches rake, weighing around 500 TN. The goods train was loaded with iron ore weighing around 6000 TN. The officer described the impact as a “mad steel giant crushing into a hill”.
According to him, “understandably, the 12 times lighter Coromondal Express sustained the maximum injury”. “However, it would have been manifold, if not for the coaches,” he added.
The officer explains how the German technology, high-safety coaches helped and why they are better than the earlier Integral Coach Factory (ICF) coaches:
- Anti-telescopic: The end-wall of these coaches is strong to ensure maximum safety. It has been provided with stanchions or a barrier that absorbs impact energy and does not allow coaches to get into one another or piling up during heavy impact.
- Crumpled zone: This is a structural feature designed to absorb kinetic energy from the impact during collision by controlled deformation. The underframe near the end walls and below the toilets contain tubular pipe structure that gets deformed or squeezed and absorb energy during collisions. This technology is aimed at protecting the main passenger compartment between two door corridors of a coach.
- Injury-free interior: The crashworthiness of LHB coaches is achieved by making the interiors such that the injury to passengers is minimized in case of a collision or derailment or any other type of accident. At the time of the accident, when the passengers are de-settled, displaced and thrown about, they hit the interiors of the coach. Then, the sharp corners and edges of the fittings and upholstery cause grievous injury to the passengers. They are also injured by falling luggage. LHB coaches minimize the risk of such injuries.
- Centre buffer coupler: The modern centre buffer coupler is designed in a way that it prevents connected coaches from climbing up or piling up in case of collision or derailment.
Officers involved in the relief and restoration works told News18 that in case of the old ICF coaches, more passenger cars would have piled up, causing more casualties. This was the case in earlier disasters such as in Gaisal in 1999 and Firozabad in 1995.
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The history of LHB coaches in India is decades-old.
The Indian Railways got into an agreement with the German LHB company in the late 1990s. With a technology transfer agreement, the Railways started producing LHB coaches in the Railway Coach Factory in Punjab’s Kapurthala.
As the Modi government came to power, it pushed for replacement of ICF coaches with LHB coaches. Subsequently, the LHB coach production started at Integral Coach Factory in Perembur, Chennai and Modern Coach Factory in Bareily.
Fact sheet says, so far, around 33,000 LHB coaches have been produced. The coach production units of Railways have increased the coach production capacity in 2022-23. Till January 31, a total of 4,175 LHB coaches were produced to ensure convenient and faster mobility.