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Monday | 13 July, 2009 | 2:01 am

The fast track

By Abbe Miller

July 2009 - Not only does it sustain more than 850,000 passengers every day, but India's Delhi Metro, which opened in 2002, has won a handful of awards for its eco-friendly practice and design. Unlike any transit system before it, Delhi Metro was the first in the world to be ISO:14001 certified for its environmentally friendly construction.

The progressive Delhi Metro can easily go toe to toe with any of the world's best transit systems, and to maintain that global reputation, it's in the midst of expanding service into Bangalore, Mumbai and other metropolitan areas in the country. One portion of that initiative is to add eight prototype coaches to run on its already 48 miles' worth of track.

Each component of those eight new coaches is essential, and The Timken Co., Canton, Ohio, will provide the axle bearing assemblies to BEML Ltd., Bangalore, as it has in the past for India's fleet of railway cars. BEML will act as the supplier of some of these prototype coaches, as will Bombardier Inc., Montreal.

Train of thought
The all-purpose axle bearings are fitted into the rail passenger car's wheels. They're pre-lubricated, pre-sealed and pre-fit. Although they may seem to be a minor component, the precision required to manufacturer them is key. The low-alloy steel parts will be fabricated at Timken's facility in Jamshedpur, India.

"The challenge to manufacture this bearing, because it's fitted on a metro car, is that it's subject to rapid deceleration and acceleration," says Ambat Rajesh Premchandran, general manager of mobile industries for Timken India. "Because of this, you need to have a bearing that is robust enough to handle those drastic changes in speed."

Premchandran says the process to produce the bearings consists of three stages. "It starts with a turning operation, where we get the shape of the bearing," he says. "For that, we use CNC lathes. Then we heat-treat the product in furnaces, which is followed by grinding. There's also a super-finish operation, which finalizes the process."

Cutting commuter congestion
Cities like Delhi are notorious for their crowded streets and overflowing thoroughfares. According to the Population Reference Bureau, Delhi has 12.9 million inhabitants. Freeing up some of those highways and byways with the increased use of public transportation is high priority for any urban area with such numbers.

"When you have to transport the 1 billion people that live in India, in cities such as Delhi, a place where the bus system wouldn't have been able to sustain that many people, it's extremely important to have an efficient transportation system," says Premchandran. "In the last few years, Delhi Metro has proved that's the direction the country is moving in."

With its numerous awards, the Delhi Metro is obviously taking things seriously. And so is everyone else involved in the countrywide endeavor. Timken helped BEML select the bearing, and together the companies determined the load and speed cycles.

"In a passenger situation like with the Metro trains, [the Indian government] expects the best in terms of technology," says Aditya Roy, national sales manager, rail, at Timken India. "Timken played an important part of achieving that. We have the capability of not having to import that part, and in terms of duties savings and the time involved in importing it, Timken offers several benefits to the project." MM

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