Railway upgrades tracks to Bihar, some trains now running ahead of schedule

The East Central Railway marshalled resources in three different engineering departments to upgrade the track, signalling and traction power apparatus.

Days before the poll bugle was sounded in Bihar, the Union government has upgraded a railway line in the state. The new line can support trains with a speed of 130 km per hour. The objective is not only to accommodate faster trains but also ensure they are on time, in a state that has witnessed perennially high demand for train travel.

The main line from Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction (formerly Mughalsarai), which travels 393 km to Jhajha in Bihar’s Jamui district, via state capital Patna, has been upgraded. For years, this line has been fit for a top speed 110 km per hour. With more and more trains being introduced on this network, the actual average speed on this line is often reduced to a crawl in peak seasons. Officials, however, say all that is going to change.

The benefit is that all trains have already started gaining about 30 minutes, and in the future, the time saving will help introduce more trains in the state.

The work in the poll-bound state for this long-pending project was fast-tracked during the lockdown, when the Railways got an opportunity to upgrade its infrastructure as the regular passenger-train service remained suspended. The East Central Railway marshalled resources in three different engineering departments to upgrade the track, signalling and traction power apparatus. Officials say while various upgradation works took place in phases over the years, the last seven months provided the opportunity to speed up and finish the project.

With the few trains that are currently running, the benefit has already started showing. For instance, the Sampoorna Kranti Express that runs between Patna and Delhi is reaching Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in two-and-a-half hours instead of the usual three hours or more. Officials say that the Purushottam Express, which connects Odisha’s Puri with Delhi via Bihar, is routinely reaching Koderma in Jharkhand nearly 40 minutes before its scheduled time. Onwards, it is reaching Gaya about 20 minutes early and then to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay nearly half-an-hour before time.

However, the increase in speed has led to a problem. Several trains running in this route are now standing idle after reaching their stations earlier than scheduled. Since the timetable is yet to be revised to factor in the gain in speed, trains are unable to depart from their en-route stations before their scheduled time. “In the new timetable, the speed gain will be factored in and many new trains will be easily pushed in without choking the system because of this upgrade,” says a senior railway official.

While the tracks were renewed with the new 60 kg, long-welded rails, the concrete sleepers keeping the rails together were also replaced with the matching 60-kg variety for higher speed. The layer of ballast, the bed of stones on which the track rests, was raised for better cushioning.

All points and crossings along the 400-odd km line were upgraded and extra, double-distancing signals were put up to allow for greater braking distance for fast trains. In other words, while normally trains in top speed may require about a kilometre-and-a-half to come to a halt before brakes are applied, that distance is increased when the speed is higher. Signals indicating the driver when to apply brakes to stop the train at the intended point has also been installed. The overhead equipment, or the masts that carry the electric wire for traction, have been fitted with more robust insulators to enable higher loads of energy required for higher speed.

“In July and August, we got Commissioner of Rail Safety clearance to run 130 km per hour for all Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches. Earlier, this was available only for AC coaches. So this means that trains with all class-composition, like sleeper, general etc, can hit the top speed of 130 km per hour, as long as they are of the LHB variety,” says a senior official connected with the speed raising project.

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