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. Today, the transporter is able to meet more than 97 per cent of its requirement from indigenous sources. In addition to ensuring the ease of doing business, the initiatives taken are aimed at strengthening the railways’ position as a preferred mode of transportation. That said, the sector has made substantial headway in indigenising locomotives, technologies and equipment, besides reducing reliance on foreign original equipment manufacturers.
Indian Infrastructure takes a look at the key initiatives taken across different segments to provide a boost to the Make in India programme…
IR has introduced several indigenisation initiatives. It has manufactured a new WAP-7HS locomotive that can pull a 24-coach passenger train at a speed of 160 km per hour (kmph) as against the maximum speed of 140 kmph for such locomotives. The semi-high speed locomotive, which was developed at the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in West Bengal, achieved a record speed of 180 kmph during its trial run in the Kota division. The locomotive is expected to enable the operation of premium trains such as the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express and Duronto Express at higher speeds. CLW manufactured the locomotive in March 2019, six months after it was assigned the task.
IR has become the first railway organisation in the world to convert a diesel locomotive into a high-powered electric locomotive. A WDG3-class diesel locomotive, which was due for mid-life rehabilitation, was converted into an electric locomotive in December 2018. The conversion, which was carried out at the Diesel Locomotive Works factory in Varanasi, also enhanced the power of the locomotive from 2,600 HP to 5,000 HP. So far, six old diesel locomotives have been converted into three twin electric locomotives.
With the aim of revolutionising freight logistics, the electric locomotive factory at Madhepura in Bihar, a joint venture (JV) between IR and Alstom, will manufacture and supply 12,000 HP electric locomotives over a span of 11 years. These locomotives will be used for operating trains on the dedicated freight corridors for faster movement of goods, especially coal and iron ore. In May 2020, the first set of locomotives was put into commercial service by IR. As per the contract, Alstom will deliver 90 locomotives in 2020-21 and 100 locomotives per year beyond March 2021 till the completion of the 11-year delivery period.
In addition, the entire rolling stock for the Delhi-Meerut high speed rail corridor will be manufactured in India with almost 80 per cent local content. Bombardier Transportation, the rolling stock contractor, will start delivering the coaches from April 2022. The rolling stock will be manufactured at its manufacturing unit in Savli near Vadodara.
Train sets and passenger coaches
The launch of the Vande Bharat Express was a big success for IR. The train was manufactured with 80 per cent indigenous components. In a recent development, IR has circulated a revised tender for 44 semi-high speed Vande Bharat trains. The minimum local content percentage has been changed to 75 per cent in the revised tender. The new tender is a domestic tender and only companies registered in India can bid for it. The last date for the submission of bids is November 17, 2020. Meanwhile, all the previous tenders for the 44 trains have been cancelled.
IR rolled out two Train 18 sets in 2019, each comprising 16 coaches. Train 18, manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, is a fully air-conditioned semi-high speed train with ultra-modern features. Further, ICF, Chennai, also plans to make Train 20 coaches, next-generation aluminium-body sleeper class trains. In the future, the national transporter plans to manufacture more Train 18 coaches to roll out on other routes – Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Nashik, Mumbai-Vadodara, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Mangaluru-Hyderabad, Chennai-Mangaluru. Presently, it is being run on the Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra routes.
Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Transport Corporation, the JV implementing the regional rapid transit system connecting the national capital to existing and upcoming economic centres, has devised plans to indigenise the production of train coaches.
IR also plans to manufacture metro coaches under the Make in India initiative at the Modern Coach Factory (MCF), Rae Bareli. The coaches will be manufactured by robots and will be 40 per cent cheaper than those procured from China and other countries. They will be equipped with amenities such as Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras and mobile charging outlets, among other facilities. Further, IR has initiated action to acquire the necessary technology for building light aluminium-body coaches.
Further, IR is gaining a strong foothold in the global market. In 2016-17, it exported 120 modern Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches to Bangladesh. The stainless steel LHB coaches were manufactured at the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala. The MCF will also export around 90 coaches to Mozambique, of which the first batch of 30 coaches was rolled out in September 2019. Recently, RITES Limited signed a contract worth $22.4 million with Sri Lanka for the supply of two fully air-conditioned diesel multiple unit train sets.
Signalling and telecommunication systems
IR is working towards implementing the train collision avoidance system (TCAS) for signalling. The system has been indigenously manufactured by the Research Design and Standards Organisation and has contemporary global features. The national transporter has roped in companies like Ansaldo STS Transportation Systems Private Limited, Kyosan India Private Limited and Siemens Rail Automation Private Limited for indigenous manufacturing of electronic interlocking systems. It has also engaged with academic and research institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science to leverage their core competencies in developing new technologies and products.
Moreover, IR’s signal production units are being modernised to keep pace with changing global trends through advanced production technology transfer and acquisition, automated assembly lines, capacity augmentation and reorientation of the product mix.
Other than TCAS, other signalling systems which have been indigenously developed so far are multi-section digital axle counters, block proving by digital axle counters using universal fail-safe block interface, modelling and validation of interlocking systems, LED-based flashing hand signal lamps, LED tail lamps for guards, fog pilot assistance systems for enhanced safety, train protection and warning systems, fuse auto changeover systems, advance auxiliary warning systems, automatic fire detection and alarm systems for signalling installations, and improved point motor machines.
Besides locomotives and signalling and telecommunication systems, track maintenance machines such as utility vehicles, rail bound maintenance vehicles, track laying equipment, rail threader and rail-cum-road vehicles have been fully indigenised. Plasser India, an independent entity of Austria-based Plasser and Theurer, commissioned a track machinery plant at Karjan in Gujarat in November 2019. The first machine manufactured in this plant was delivered in January 2020.
The Make in India initiative has helped not only in reducing manufacturing costs but also in increasing the pace of technology adoption, reducing foreign dependence and improving the passenger experience, besides generating greater employment opportunities. IR’s indigenisation initiatives are also expected to bring huge foreign investment in the sector. Trains such as Gatimaan, Tejas and Humsafar are the result of the emphasis on domestic manufacturing.
In sum, the initiative can play a pivotal role in creating business opportunities for domestic manufacturers. The industry can expect new business avenues going forward, particularly in light of the government’s recent Make in India mandate.