Growing Fleet: Rolling stock trends and developments

Rolling stock trends and developments

The rolling stock segment has been steadily growing for the past few years. With the addition of new high and semi-high spe­ed coaches and trains, and the launch of the Vande Bharat and Vistadome coaches, this segment of Indian Railways (IR) has witnessed overall grow­th. As of March 2021, IR’s rolling stock consis­ted of 302,624 wagons, 79,835 coaches and 12,734 locomotives. In 2021-22, IR achieved its hi­ghest ever electric locomotive production and induction at 1,110 locomotives.

Coach production has steadily grown from 4,280 in 2016-17 to 4,814 in 2020-21, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.98 per cent. In 2021-22 (as of February 2022), the total coach production stood at 6,083 coaches. Meanwhile, locomotive pr­o­­d­uc­tion has increased from 626 in 2016-17 to 731 in 2020-21, registering a CAGR of 3.15 per cent. As of February 2022, the total number of lo­comotives manufactured by IR stood at 872. During 2021-22, the total number of wagons pro­duced under the Rolling Stock Programme stood at 8,386 (against the target of 9,600 wa­gons for 2021-22). Meanwhile, under the Uni­on Budget 2022-23, Rs 79.78 billion has been allocated to rolling stock.

Developments and innovations

In a notable development, Chittaranjan Loco­mo­tive Works (CLW) achieved a remarkable ac­­­c­omplishment by producing a record 486 locomotives in 2021-22 against the Railway Bo­ard’s production target of 485 locomotives. CLW consistently produced over 40 locomoti­ves per month in 2021-22. In a similar develo­pm­ent, Banaras Locomotive Works (BLW) has set a new record by manufacturing the highest number of locomotives till date during 2021-22. A total of 367 locomotives were manufactured in 2021-22, including locomotives ex­por­ted to Mozambique. Of the 367, there were 31 WAP7, 332 WAG9 and four Mozam­bique locomotives. Along with this, BLW generated a revenue of Rs 60.9 million from expor­ted locomotive parts as against Rs 10.8 million in the previous year – 464 per cent higher as compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. Similarly, the revenue generated from non-railway customers from the supply of locomotive parts stood at Rs 0.16 billion, 98.6 per cent higher than the revenue generated in the corresponding period in the previous year (Rs 0.08 billion).

In another development, as of March 15, 2022, the total number of economy class coa­ch­es inducted by IR stands at 65. The Rail Coa­ch Factory (RCF), Kapurthala, launched In­dia’s first rake of 15 air-conditioned (AC) three-tier economy class coaches on May 15, 2021. The key features of these coaches include a capacity of 83 berths as against 72 berths in previous AC three-tier coaches, provision of a disabled friendly toilet, redesigned AC ducting to provide individual AC vents for each berth, improved and modular design of seats and berths, foldable snack tables and water holders, individual reading lights, mobile charging points with ports and improved fire safety-compliant furnishing.

Moving towards digitalisation, IR is expected to install radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in all wagons by the end of 2022. These RFID tags will provide details related to the ro­lling stock. These initiatives, along with the ins­tallation of a global positioning system (GPS), are expected to minimise the scope of artificial shortage and lead to optimum utilisation. All the data will be available at the central as well as zonal levels, thereby enabling efficient utilisation of the rolling stock. The ins­talla­tion of GPS in wagons would require an investment of arou­nd Rs 6 billion. IR is expected to add around 35,000 wagons by the end of 2022, and nearly 100,000 wagons in the next three years. Fur­ther, wheel impact load detector technology has also been adopted for predictive maintenan­ce of rolling stock. In April 2022, Wabtec secur­ed a pre­dictive maintenan­ce contract from the Cen­tral Organisation for Modernisation of Work­sho­ps for the Online Monitoring of Rolling Stock (OMRS) project, to build a new automated OMRS system under IR’s SMART Yard initiative. It is expected that the new automated OMRS system will increase the availability of IR’s fleet of coaches, wagons and locomotives by identifying and solving defects, as well as helping avoid in-service failures.

Recently, the West Central Railway (WCR) zone of IR equipped 100 per cent of its Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches with head-on-generation (HOG) technology. These coaches will now be eco-friendly and should help in saving energy and reducing air pollution. A total of 36 rakes, including 22 rakes in Jabalpur division, six rakes in Bhopal division, and rakes in Kota division will be equipped with the LHB po­wer car system. WCR’s routes are 100 per cent ele­ctrified, and power for these coaches will be supplied through overhead electric wires via HOG.

In another innovative initiative, IR has created a prototype coach with side access and other enhanced characteristics for loading vehicles in November 2021. It is expected that this will significantly improve the velocity of freight trains in India. The high speed automobile carrier is made up of released and utilised passenger coaches, and has the capability of achieving a top speed of 110 km per hour. It also has an increased payload of 18 tonnes, as well as improved features over the previous 12 tonne capacity coaches. Further, it has other advantages, which include fall plates for simpler vehicle loading, strapping channels for effective vehicle fastening, a fully welded steel chequered plate floor, louvres for aeration and natural pipe light illumination.

In addition to the above, IR has equipped 100 per cent of its passenger coaches with bio-toilets. This is in line with the concept of promoting Swachh Bharat. The bio-toilets will en­sure that no human waste is discharged fr­om coaches of passenger trains on rail tracks. With this, around 274,000 litres per day of excreta on rail tracks will be avoided. Reportedly, human waste-led corrosion of rails and fittings requiring repairs of about Rs 4 billion per ann­um can also be avoided. Nearly 73,078 pass­enger train coaches have been fitted with 258,906 bio-toilets.

Further, IR has plans to supplement the existing system of bio-toilets with vacuum flu­sh­ing system toilets (bio-vacuum toilets). This will substantially reduce the requirement of wa­ter for flushing, while ensuring effective flu­sh­ing of faecal matter from the pans. Bio-vacuum toilets have reportedly been provided in 1,372 LHB coaches. A decision has been taken to provide bio-vacuum toilets in AC LHB train coaches as well.

Future plans

IR is planning on launching 75 new Vande Bha­rat Express trains in 75 weeks (starting from August 2021), which will connect every corner of the country. This fleet of trains will be in addition to the two existing Vande Bha­rat Ex­pre­ss trains, one of which operates on the Va­ra­nasi-Delhi route while the other operates on the Katra-Delhi route. IR has placed an order for 58 new Vande Bharat trains with seven companies, in­cluding Medha Servo, Bombar­dier and Siemens. The other four companies will manufacture at least one train each. This has been done to create a bigger circle of manufacturers who can meet the demand for such trains in the future. Medha will reportedly manufacture 26 Vande Bharat trains, and Bom­bar­dier and Siemens will manufacture 16 and 9 trains respectively. The government-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited got the order for the remaining four trains.

In March 2022, IR updated its coach production programme for 2022-23. As per the latest updates, IR plans to manufacture 8,429 train coaches and rakes in the coming financial year, including 75 Vande Bharat Express trains, and 220 Tejas and 70 Vistadome coa­ches. The ministry has raised the production plan for 2022-23 by 878 units from the earlier planned 7,551. A target of 8,115 units had ea­r­lier been set for financial year 2021-22. The revised plan for 2022-23 raises year-on-year production targets by 3.9 per cent. Of the 70 Vista­do­me coaches to be manufactured, 40 will be manufactured by the Integral Coach Fa­c­tory (ICF) in Chennai and 30 by RCF in Kapur­thala. Mean­while, the ICF will have an ambitio­us target of manufacturing 55 Vande Bharat rakes instead of the originally planned 22 ra­kes in 2022-23, while the Modern Coach Fac­tory in Raebareli and the RCF will have a target of producing 10 rakes each. Further, BLW pla­ns to manufacture 450 electric and six die­sel locomotives in 2022-23.