Indian Railways recently began transporting Oxygen laden trucks across India under the moniker of Oxygen Express. It ran the first oxygen express from Kalamboli to Vizag and back up to Nasik. The railway has risen to the challenge of transporting oxygen trucks at a short notice and must be appreciated for the work done since the infrastructure planning and training was non existent on most routes prior to the pandemic. What were the challenges that the Indian Railways face during the transportation of oxygen trucks?
Cryogenic and Hazardous material
Oxygen is a cryogenic and hazardous chemical. The trains have to avoid sudden acceleration and deceleration. The pressure has to be checked regularly in between the transit, especially when it is in loaded condition. Yet, the railways took it as a challenge, mapped the route, trained people and could take these particular size tankers to the Vizag via Vasai, Surat, Bhusaval, Nagpur route.
Mapping the route
For the movement of Ro-Ro service, the railways had to map the entire route considering the various constraints like Ghat sections, Road Over Bridges, Tunnels, Curves, Platform canopies, Over Head Equipment etc. at certain locations. Since the height is an important aspect of this movement, the railways mapped the route via Vasai. The model of road tanker T1618 with a height of 3320 mm was found feasible to be placed on flat wagons. The longer route via Vasai was charted as Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) is not permitted to travel in Ghat sections over Mumbai division.
Distance and speed
The oxygen tankers have to be sent at a greater distance and time was a critical element. The distance between Kalamboli and Vizag is more than 1850 kms, which was completed by these tankers in just about 50 hours. 7 tankers with more than 100 tons LMO (Liquid Medical Oxygen) were loaded in 10 hrs and transported back to Nagpur in just 21 hrs. Railways unloaded 3 tankers in Nagpur and the remaining 4 tankers reached Nashik in just 12 hrs time from Nagpur.
Transportation of Oxygen through trains is faster over long distances when compared to the road transport. Transportation on the rails took just 2 days instead of 3 days by road. Trains can run 24 hours in a day, but truck drivers need to take halts and are subject the traffic and road conditions.