In order to get forged wheels for its trains and locomotives, Indian Railways is attempting to lessen its reliance on imports from nations like Russia, China, and Europe. Since the 1960s, the country’s transporter has imported forged wheels from the Czech Republic, Brazil, the Romani, Japan, China, the UK, the Ukraine, and Russia.
As a result of the continuous conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the supply of wheels was harmed last year. According to railways, China now supplies all of the wheels needed. The effect became apparent since the construction of Vande Bharat Express rakes was also hampered by the delay in the import of wheels from Ukraine. Indian Railways has resolved to increase its ability to produce forged wheels for trains that are “Made in India”.
A tender for the construction of a new plant to produce 80,000 wheels annually for the following 20 years was floated last year. The tender was just opened, and the partnership of Ramakrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons came in with the lowest offer.
In 2022–2023, 80,000 wheels for Rs 520 crore were purchased from SAIL, with the remaining 40,000 coming from China and Russia.
According to Indian Railways’ projections, the number of wheels needed will increase to 2 lakh annually by 2026 as more semi-high speed trains are introduced. SAIL can currently produce 40,000 wheels for railways each year, and RINL, which has a capacity of 80,000 wheels, has yet to begin regular commercial production.
The project, according to Shri Prakash, a former member of the Railway Board, is a “really positive move” in the correct direction. “This is a crucial action. The domestic makers need to ensure that the quality of the steel used is up to the norm,” he told TOI. H Raghuram, a railway expert, agrees that the project is urgently needed. “Demand for forged wheels will increase with the introduction of Vande Bharat trains and more semi-high speed trains, therefore it makes logical to build up the domestic manufacturing capability,” he said.
For this “Made in India” procurement, three bidders—the Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Bharat Forge, and Ramakrishna Forgings—submitted their proposals. The second-lowest bidder was SAIL, followed by Bharat Forge.
Ramakrishna Forgings, the winning bidder, must build up the manufacturing plant within 36 months of the award date. In light of the learning curve and economies of volume, Indian Railways states that the price will be decreased by 2% annually for a period of three years. From the fourth year forward, the applicable price will be 94% of the price that was quoted and is good for the remaining duration.
At first, Indian Railways would purchase 80,000 wheels annually for Rs 600 crore. The manufacturer would be permitted to export these wheels as well after satisfying Indian Railways’ requirements.
Indian Railways intends to soon fulfil the full domestic demand for forged wheels for its locomotives and trains with the opening of the new plant for forged wheels.
ALSO READ: All-new safety features for the 2023 Hyundai Verna