The use of Aluminium in Railways By Mr. Pragun Jindal Khaitan, Vice Chairman and Managing Director – Jindal Aluminium

Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that have resulted from the fast growth of human
civilisation have threatened people for many years. As the transportation industry develops,
energy conservation and pollution reduction are becoming increasingly important. The
railways are a significant part of the transportation sector and our trains continue to be the
favoured mode of transportation, carrying millions of passengers and tonnes of freight every
year because of their more reasonable prices, comfort, and convenience. As a result, the
railways have continued to improve their services and modernise their mechanics while
beginning to prioritise energy conservation and reduce pollution. Finding its beginnings as a
mode of transportation during the 19th century's Industrial Revolution, the railways have
undergone continual development improving speed and safety while incorporating newer
Reducing aerodynamic resistance, transmission loss, tyre rolling resistance, and weight are
just a few strategies to increase energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. One effective
option to make trains more efficient is a lightweight but robust structure. Metals, particularly
cast iron and stainless steel, have historically been the primary material used in the
manufacturing of transportation machinery, the railways included. Aluminium due to its
weight, corrosion resistance, formability, high specific strength, and comparatively low
price  could replace the traditional metals.
Using aluminium reduces the overall weight of a rail car body by 50%. It is one of the key
raw elements that are enabling a transition for the railways. As a primary building material
used in new age trains, aluminium now is also being used in contrails that join the train's
floor to the sidewall, the ceiling, the sideboards, and the floor panels as well.
After successfully opting to use aluminium for its metro rakes, India is now keen on putting it
to use in long-distance trains like the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains as well. While
the Government of India has cleared the use of aluminium for next-generation trains that will
be part of its vast railway networks spanning a total route length of 67,956 km, Japan and
several European nations have already been enjoying the benefits of using aluminium train
coaches for over 15 years.

Versatile benefits

Because there are fewer parts and strong corrosion resistance, aluminium is easier to build
than steel. With its qualities of being lightweight, having strong corrosion resistance, having
good formability, having high specific strength, and being relatively inexpensive, aluminium
delivers a balanced performance. Aluminium weighs about a third as much as steel, but
because of strength requirements, the majority of aluminium parts used in the transportation
industry weigh around half as much as the equivalent steel parts.
Aluminium has several benefits over other metals in applications ranging from rapid transit
and suburban rail systems to high-speed trains and freight trains. In rapid transit and suburban
rail systems, where trains must frequently stop, significant cost savings can be realised by
using aluminium body coaches since less energy is used for acceleration and braking.
According to a study published by Aluminium Insider, new aluminium waggons energy
consumption can be reduced by up to 60% by combining the light-weighting of trains with
other similar techniques. On average, 5 tonnes of aluminium are used by each of these

Green Future
Aluminium is the future of railway architecture, be it with the coaches and wagons or even
other signalling infrastructure and station furniture. Since aluminium is corrosion-resistant, it
has the potential to extend the lifespan of railway coaches lasting nearly 40 years with lesser
maintenance. The existing trains in use by the Indian Railways have a 35-year lifespan with
aluminium adding another 5 years. This also ensures that coaches and wagons made of
aluminium benefit from a higher salvage value when the metal is put to reuse at the end of its
life cycle. The other benefit that makes aluminium a sought-after metal is that the production
process is faster and coaches or wagons can be delivered within a lesser time frame.
Even though it is asserted that aluminium initially costs more than standard coaches and
waggons, the railways will undoubtedly benefit in the long run. Aluminium waggons can
carry 7-8% more weight up to 70 tonnes than a stainless-steel waggon, which can only
transport about 65 tonnes. Finally, any project that generates a rate of return of more than
15% is seen as commercially feasible by the Indian Railways, which have made enormous
strides in their offerings to their users. But with a higher rate of return of 25–30%, aluminium
is a material that can be an effective collaborator in a bright future for railways all over the