Indian Railways (IR) has become a key driver of the government’s Make in India programme, enabling the country to become a manufacturing base for railway equipment. The initiative has helped the railways in attaining the skill and capacity to indigenously manufacture rolling stock including locomotives and coaches, not only for domestic consumption but also for export.
Today, IR is able to meet more than 97 per cent of its requirements from indigenous sources. It is also encouraging foreign companies to set up their production units in the country. Besides, a number of initiatives including manufacturing of high horsepower (HP) locomotives, train sets, coaches, spares and components for rolling stock, and signalling and telecom equipment are planned to be taken as part of the Make in India programme.
IR is making continuous efforts towards modernisation and indigenisation of its locomotives. It has become the first railway organisation in the world to convert a diesel locomotive into a high-powered electric locomotive. The conversion, which took only 69 days, was carried out at the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi. To reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions, it has decided to discontinue the production of diesel locomotives at its units and convert most of its existing diesel locomotives into electric ones. In 2018-19, IR recorded the highest ever production (605) of electric locomotives. It has set a target of manufacturing 725 electric locomotives each year starting from 2019-20 to 2021-22.
IR has also designed and manufactured a high speed locomotive that can run at 180 kmph. The new locomotive will help in improving the efficiency of high-speed trains like the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express. It has been developed by the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in West Bengal. CLW produced the locomotive in March 2019, six months after it was assigned the task.
In another development, state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) launched the country’s first regenerative 5,000 HP WAG-7 electric locomotive in February 2019. The state-of-the-art regeneration system has been developed through the company’s in-house research efforts for IR’s conventional electric locomotives. The regenerative technology helps in avoiding loss of heat energy when the brakes are applied and also feeds the energy back to the overhead power lines. IR has placed an order for 25 such locomotives with BHEL.
Further, IR has entered into partnerships with leading firms such as France-based Alstom SA and US-based GE for the production of next-generation locomotives in the country. While the Electric Locomotive Factory at Madhepura in Bihar, a joint venture (JV) between IR and Alstom, will supply 800 high HP locomotives to the railways, the Marhowra facility, IR’s JV with GE, will supply 1,000 diesel locomotives over the next 11 years.
Train sets and passenger coaches
The launch of Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 in February 2019 was a big success story for IR. The train was manufactured in Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory (ICF) with 80 per cent indigenous components at an estimated cost of Rs 970 million. The train is equipped with various modern features such as comfortable seats, modular bio-vacuum toilets, and diffused lighting, automatic doors and sliding doors. The second Vande Bharat Express from Delhi to Katra that was launched in October 2019 was also developed at the ICF. IR plans to introduce 40 such trains by 2022.
Coach manufacturing activity has also picked up pace across all production units. IR manufactured a total of 6,037 coaches in 2018-19 as compared to 4,470 coaches in 2017-18, registering an increase of over 35 per cent. There has been a complete shift to the production of safer Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches and IR is working towards replacing all the older ICF coaches with LHB coaches in the next few years. Further, IR is also planning to manufacture metro rail coaches at the Modern Coach Factory (MCF) under the Make in India programme. At present, most of the metro coaches in the country are imported. The indigenously developed metro coaches will be 40 per cent cheaper than those procured from China and other countries and will be equipped with features such as Wi-Fi and CCTV cameras. The ICF is manufacturing coaches for the Kolkata metro.
IR is also gaining a strong foothold in the global market. In 2016-17, it exported 120 modern LHB coaches to Bangladesh at a combined estimated cost of Rs 3.67 billion. The stainless steel LHB coaches were manufactured at the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala. The MCF will also export around 90 coaches to Mozambique; the first batch of 30 coaches was rolled out in September 2019.
Indigenously manufactured components and spare parts
The Rail Wheel Factory (RWF) in Bengaluru is also planning to enter the international market. The RWF was established in 1980 to reduce imports of cast wheels for use in the railways. It meets the bulk requirement of wheels, axles and wheelsets for rolling stock.
Over the years, the RWF’s production has increased manyfold. The factory aims to start its first ever export of wheels thereby utilising its surplus production. It has a current production target of 171,000 wheels, 70,000 axles and 64,000 wheelsets in financial year 2019-20. The factory will manufacture around 17,000 wheels for export. It plans to export them to countries such as the US, Germany, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and a few African countries as well. It has already received the certification to start exports.
Signalling and telecommunications
IR has taken various measures to revamp its signalling systems to enhance safety in train operations. It is planning to introduce the European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 technology, which will not only ensure safety, but also increase the speed of the trains. It has identified the 830 km Delhi-Mughalsarai section for the deployment of the ETCS2 signalling system. Once the ETCS2 technology is tested on this section, foreign companies will be invited to set up their signalling equipment manufacturing plants in the country under the Make in India programme.
IR has also collaborated with Japan-based Hitachi for implementing automatic block signalling and ETCS for the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) project (WDFC 1, which extends from Rewari to Vadodara and WDFC 2 which extends from Vadodara to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust). The contract was awarded in 2015-16. The system will help freight trains running at the speed of 100 kmph to halt automatically if train drivers fail to detect signal passing at danger, helping in avoiding collisions. Hitachi has sourced and utilised local signalling equipment for the project, giving a boost to indigenous manufacturing capabilities.
The national transporter is also working to implement another automatic train protection system – the train collision avoidance system (TCAS). The system has been indigenously developed by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation in Lucknow to meet the safety requirements of the railway network. The work for implementation of the TCAS on 250 route km of South Central Railway as a pilot project is under way. Trials for the system have been conducted for the Lingampalli-Vikarabad section of the Secunderabad division. In addition, there are plans to introduce Wi-Fi services inside trains in the coming years. Currently, Wi-Fi services are available at 5,150 railway stations, and this will be extended to all 6,500 stations by the end of 2020. As providing Wi-Fi services inside trains is a complicated process, the government is planning to bring in foreign technology and investors to launch the service.
IR has introduced three 09-3X Dynamic Tamping Express machines manufactured under the Make in India programme for improved track maintenance. These machines can measure pre- and post-track geometry. They can also be used to correct the track to the required geometry, helping the railways in improving safety. The tamping machines, which cost around Rs 270 million each, will help in eliminating the existing practice of manual measurement of track quality. The use of these machines can help IR in reducing operating costs and track-possession time.
The initiatives taken under the Make in India programme by the railways have not only helped in reducing manufacturing costs but also in increasing technology adoption, improving passenger experience and creating more employment opportunities. With the government’s plan of substantially increasing investment in the railway sector, the Make in India initiative can play a crucial role in creating new business opportunities for domestic manufacturing companies. In fact, several items under the track, civil, electrical, signalling and telecommunication and rolling stock categories have been identified to be manufactured indigenously over the course of the implementation of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project. Thus, the initiative is expected to play a pivotal role in the deployment of advanced technologies and in increasing India’s share in the global rail market.