The non-air conditioned Covid care isolation coaches will soon get a solar-reflective coating, which would bring down the temperature inside by 5-6 degrees Celsius, if a trial being conducted by railways on 100 such coaches is successful.
The move comes amid concerns raised by Niti Aayog on the heat inside these coaches during peak summers when temperatures soar to more than 40 degrees in parts of the country.
According to a health ministry advisory on these coaches, around 5,200 of them have been earmarked for Covid care at 215 railways stations across the country.
The railways has now ordered a trial to paint the roofs of 100 of the converted coaches over Northern and North Central Railway as per standards prescribed by The Research Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO), a senior railway official said.
"The trial is expected to be concluded by June this year and once we are able to reduce the temperature by at least 5-6 degrees Celsius only then we would scale it up. The thing is if we cannot bring down the temperature substantially, then there is no point in investing money and resources in this, said the official involved in the process.
The cost of painting is estimated to be Rs 1 lakh per coach, including the cost of paint and labour, a second official said. Officials said if the trial is successful, the idea can be used on the 5,000-odd modified coaches and also in non-air conditioned coaches.
They said the railways is using a "Made-in-India solution" developed by IIT-Mumbai and the aim is to reduce the temperature from 45 degrees to about 39 degrees. The solution can reduce ambient temperature by 15 per cent and also act as a fire retardant.
"RDSO has been asked to develop a trial scheme with locations for measurements to be done. This paint is expected to bring down the temperature by 5-6 degrees. This is the right time to conduct the trial as the temperatures are high and measurements can be effective," the first official said.
Earlier, a trial was conducted on around 100 coaches of Humsafar Express, Jan Shatabdi Express, Antyodaya Express using another Make-in-India product, 3M Scotchkote Polytech Exp RG700, which is a solar reflective coating which reduces heat inside any enclosure and can be applied on various metallic and non-metallic substrates, officials said.
In a statement, 3M India said its solution leads to energy conservation by over 20 per cent and can significantly contribute to passenger comfort.
"It is estimated that if applied over 15,000 rail coaches in India's large rail network, this solution can save up to 162,000 MW of electricity which converts to reduction in the amount of CO2 released by almost 132,000 tonnes per year. This could potentially save approximately USD 15 million per year in energy costs or reduce it by 17 per cent," the company said.