Capacity Augmentation: IR’s rolling stock and upcoming manufacturing facilities

IR’s rolling stock and upcoming manufacturing facilities

The year 2018-19 has been a significant one for the rolling stock segment. It saw the introduction of the first indigenously developed and manufactured semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express, the roll-out of IR’s first smart coach, the first locomotive conversion from diesel to electric, the first Make in India 12,000 horsepower (HP) electric locomotive and unveiling of several new modern trains/coaches for enhancing passenger experience. While the fleet of coaches, locomotives and wagons stood at 302,238 units in 2017-18, it increased to 308,305 units during 2018-19 (till February 2019). Given Indian Railways’ (IR) ambitious plans of introducing new railway lines and setting up freight corridors, the demand for rolling stock is expected to rise in the coming years. To this end, IR has announced plans to augment the capacity of its existing factories and is also setting up several new manufacturing units.

Fleet size and growth

IR procures coaches from four manufacturing units – Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai; Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala; Modern Coach Factory (MCF), Rae Bareli; and Indian Railway Coach Factory, Haldia. Together, these factories have an annual production capacity of 4,300 units. ICF is the front runner with an annual production capacity of 1,700 units, followed by RCF with a capacity of 1,500 units.

In 2018-19 (till February 2019), ICF alone manufactured a total of 2,909 coaches, surpassing both its production target of 2,900 units as well as the previous year’s production of 2,397 units. Till February 2019, the other two manufacturing plants – RCF, Kapurthala, and MCF, Rae Bareli – had rolled out 1,196 and 1,283 coaches respectively. While MCF has exceeded its target by around 2 per cent, RCF is still lagging behind its target by around 4 per cent. In addition, the Indian Railway Coach Factory at Haldia has produced 59 diesel multiple unit coaches till February 2019 as against its target of 26 coaches. Earlier, in 2017-18, a total of 4,359 coaches were produced by these manufacturing plants.

IR’s locomotive manufacturing units – Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in West Bengal, Diesel Loco Modernisation Works (DMW) in Punjab and Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) in Uttar Prdaesh – have an annual production capacity of around 783 units. CLW has the highest capacity of 1,700 units, followed by DLW with 200 units. With increasing reliance on dieselisation and electrification, IR has been reducing its fleet of steam locomotives. In 2018-19 (till February 2019), IR added 501 electric locomotives, taking the fleet size to 6,217 electric locomotives. Besides, the diesel locomotive segment saw a net addition of 110 units during April 2017-February 2018, thereby enhancing the fleet size to 6,186 diesel locomotives.

Wagons are predominantly manufactured by private and public sector units. During 2018-19 (till February 2019), 11,382 wagons were added to the existing fleet of 286,002 wagons (2017-18). While 763 wagons were produced by public sector units, 9,703 were procured from private sector units and the remaining 916 were manufactured at railway workshops.

Production plans

The passenger coaches plying on IR’s network have been designed with the necessary safety features taking into consideration the operating conditions. However, Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) design coaches have a higher speed potential and better safety features than conventional ICF coaches. Therefore, it has been decided to run more trains with LHB coaches. Trains operating with conventional ICF coaches are being replaced with LHB coaches in a phased manner. As of November 2018, 308 pairs of trains are being operated with LHB coaches. Further, with effect from April 2018, only LHB coaches are being manufactured by IR production units. For 2019-20, the planned production of coaches has been targeted at 5,940 against the revised target of 6,058 coaches in 2018-19. LHB coaches will account for the highest share of around 68 per cent in total production. Further, in 2020-21, 6,534 coaches will be manufactured, of which 4,079 will be LHB coaches. In 2021-22, a total of 6,695 coaches are planned to be rolled out, with 4,099 being LHB coaches.

For rolling out electric locomotives, a target of 725 has been set by IR, which is 20.23 per cent higher than the target of 603 units for 2018-19. The same production target has been kept for 2020-21 and 2021-22. Of these, about 340 locomotives will be produced by CLW in each of these financial years. In terms of class, while the WAG 9 coaches will have the maximum share of about 52 per cent and 50 per cent respectively in total production in 2019-20 and 2020-21, 2021-22 will have a maximum production of WAP 7 class of electric locomotives with a share of about 55 per cent.

Going forward, IR has decided to opt for the reverse auction method to decide on future tenders for the procurement of 21,758 wagons at an estimated cost of Rs 56 billion — the largest such order for the national transporter. The order includes nine types of wagons, including covered, flat, open and brake vans, to be supplied by the successful bidders in the next two years. Major players in wagon manufacturing including Titagarh, Cimmco, Texmaco, Jupitor, Besco and Jindal Rail Infrastructure are among the 13 bidders who have entered the race to bag the massive contract.

Upcoming manufacturing units

Given the increased focus on enhancing rolling stock production capacity, IR is undertaking capacity expansion of ICF from 1,700 to 2,750 coaches per year. To this end, Rs 4.88 billion has already been sanctioned. Further, IR has set forth plans for augmenting the capacity of MCF from 1,000 to 2,000 coaches per year by 2020-21, and an amount of Rs 4.8 billion has been sanctioned. In addition, the blueprint for increasing production to 3,000 units has already been prepared. Besides capacity augmentation plans for existing factories, IR has also envisaged plans of setting up 17 new manufacturing facilities entailing an investment of over Rs 390 billion. One of the major upcoming production units is the Madhepura electric locomotive factory in Bihar which will supply 800 high horsepower electric locomotives to IR over the next 11 years. The project is being implemented by Madhepura Electric Locomotive Private Limited, a joint venture (JV) company between IR and Alstom, for an estimated contract value of RS 213.89 billion. The first phase of construction has already been completed with the first 12,000 HP locomotive making its maiden trip from Madhepura to Saharanpur in June 2018, covering about 1,200 km. The movement of the locomotive was tracked through a remote monitoring system known as Traintracer – a technology which has the capability of pre-empting glitches and running diagnostics remotely.

Another major ongoing project is the Marhowra diesel locomotive factory in Bihar. It will supply a total of 1,000 locomotives to IR. Of these, 700 will be 4,500 HP locomotives and the remaining will be 6,000 HP. The project is being undertaken by GE Diesel Locomotive Private Limited, a JV between IR and GE Global Sourcing India Limited, at an estimated cost of Rs 146.56 billion. While two prototype locomotives (4,500 HP) were handed over to IR in February 2018, 98 locomotives were targeted to be supplied by end 2018-19. From 2019-20 to 2027-28, the factory will supply 100 locomotives to IR each year.

The way forward

IR has set ambitious targets for the procurement of rolling stock. To fulfil these commitments, budgetary allocation for the rolling stock segment has been increased by 64 per cent from Rs 37.25 billion in 2018-19 (revised) to Rs 61.15 billion in 2019-20. In addition, the upcoming manufacturing facilities will also add to IR’s rolling stock production capacity as it embarks on the implementation of several big-ticket projects. Further, the adoption of an online monitoring system for predictive maintenance of rolling stock, use of robotics and Industry 4.0 in production, upgradation of coaches under programmes such as Project Swarn and Project Utkrisht, and upgradation of electric locomotives are steps being taken in the right direction. However, IR’s heavily unbalanced revenue streams and heavy dependence on public funding can prove to be a roadblock in the timely implementation of its goals.