In a big effort to ‘Make In India’, the Ministry of Railways has drawn up a roadmap to start domestic production of high-speed wheels and high-strength railway tracks – its two main import products.
Speaking to reporters, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Friday that the Railways had launched a tender for the manufacture of high-speed wheels in India to meet domestic demand and start their exports, and a similar tender for the manufacture and export of high-strength tracks will be released in a month.
“We have undertaken a detailed exercise to study what we are importing and the high speed wheels and high strength rails are two major elements. We are striving not only to meet domestic demand, but also to become exporters of importers,” Mr. Vaishnaw said.
According to the call for tenders launched, a manufacturing plant with a production capacity of at least 80,000 wheels of this type will be set up within 18 months. These will be forged wheels used for high speed trains such as Vande Bharat as well as LHB coaches.
The railways will ensure the purchase of 80,000 wheels at an estimated cost of around ₹600 crore per year for 20 years.
The minister said it was the first time the railways issued a tender to invite private players to build a wheel factory and manufacture wheels for high-speed trains in India. He added that there will also be a condition that the player has to export wheels to other markets. Companies bidding for the tender must be an Indian manufacturer with good expertise in the metallurgical industry.
The current requirement of Indian Railways is about two lakh wheels per year. About half of this will be covered by Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited of Steel Authority of India Limited. Currently, the railways import most of their wheels from countries such as Ukraine, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Recently it faced major supply delays due to the Russian-Ukrainian war and had to place an order for 39,000 wheels with a Chinese manufacturer.