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Stainless steel: Applications in Railways

Stainless steel: Applications in Railways

In order to cater to its significant growth potential, India will need more airports, finance and human resource.

Stainless steel consumption in the railway sector has been gaining steadily, on account of its dura­bility, higher strength-to-weight ratio, aes­thetics and corrosion resistance qualities. Stainless steel’s amazing strength-to-weight ratio makes wagons lighter by 40 per cent yet, keeps them strong enough to take on 12 per cent more payload. As a result, trains travel faster, consume less fuel and increase efficiencies. Last but not the least, stainless steel is 100 per cent recyclable, making the metal one of the greenest materials available to the engineers. Moreover, additional benefits of high durability and low maintenance make it the least expensive material in a lifecycle cost comparison with other metals.

In the recent past, Indian Railways has also been focusing on modernisation of its rolling stock in order to improve safety measures, freight carrying capacity and to reduce the maintenance cost of wagons and coaches. On account of this modernisation drive, stainless steel consumption within the railway sector is slowly increa­sing, and stainless steel has started to replace the conventional corten steel. Many stainless steel grades are in use in railway operations today. Austenitic stainless steel grades 301LN, 201, 301, 201LN and 304 are being used in the construction of railway coaches, while ferritic stainless steel 409M/IRSM 44 97 are being used for freight wagons.

Passenger coaches: In 2001-02, Indian Railways inducted German designed Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) coaches for Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. LHB coaches are made up of stainless steel unlike conventional coaches of corten steel. The all-stainless steel LHB designs from Germany, which are presently being used by Indian Railways for long distance passenger car, greatly reduce the weight of the coaches to the tune of 40 per cent and thus lead to enormous fuel savings, low maintenance cost, enhanced service life, enhanced safety standards, particularly crash worthiness, higher carrying capacity of about 10-12 per cent, high speed potential and aesthetic interiors. After successful sprint of Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, Indian Railways decided to introduce stainless steel coaches for mail and express trains as well.

Stainless steel in rail wagons: Application of stainless steel is not limited to passenger and metro rails only, it has also become a standard material for rail wagon applications. Ferritic stainless steel wagons are not only lighter in comparison to corten steel but also the amount of maintenance required or down-time for these wagons is very low in the same service condition. Moreover, by increasing the axle loads, the wagons can give a much better payload to tare weight ratio up to 3.5:1 (compared to approximately 1.9:1 for corten steel wagons).

Lower down-time loss and expense for main­tenance, can greatly offset the higher initial cost of stainless steel wagons. Utility grade offers a particularly advantageous combination of toughness, weld ability, strength, corrosion resistance (almost 250 times the corrosion resistance of unpainted mild steel) and wet-abrasion resistance. Designed with ease of fabrication in mind, utility grade has good forming, drawing, blanking and punching characteristics.

Many countries like South Africa, China, the US, UK, Belgium and Australia have replaced carbon steel rail-wagons by modified chromium-alloyed stainless steel 1.4003 (utility ferritic grade) enabling a capacity of much more than 80 tonne and a service life much longer than 20 years. Indian Railways has also extended usage of stainless steel in its freight movement as they offer higher payload ratio. More than thousand stainless steel wagons such as BOXNHL, BRN, and BOXN-R are now increasingly used for carrying freight such as coal, ore, minerals, fertilisers, slabs, coils etc.

Jindal Stainless has been supplying the quality stainless steel material to Indian Railways for fabrication of new age coaches and wagons for so many years. Jindal Stainless supplies more than 50,000 MT of SS every year to Indian Railways and holds a significantly large market share of about 58 per cent in supplies of rolling stock for various coaches and wagons.

Article courtesy: JSL Stainless.

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