How Indian Railways can lead the the charge towards Atmanirbhar Bharat

By: |
August 25, 2020 11:23 AM

With a fully computerised design & development cell equipped with the state-of-the-art computer facilities, it also uses strain gauge testing and squeeze test procedures for prototypes before the commencement of series production.

Railways is now planning to speed up electrification, resulting in reduced demand for diesel locomotives, so a scale down of production at DLW will be inevitable.Railways is now planning to speed up electrification, resulting in reduced demand for diesel locomotives, so a scale down of production at DLW will be inevitable.

Being Atmanirbhar or self-reliant has been Bharatiya Rail’s policy for over seven decades now. Bharatiya Rail’s long list of such ‘Atmanirbhar’ initiatives includes Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, set up in 1950, which started with the manufacture of steam locomotives changing over to electric ones in 1972.

The brainchild of BC Roy, the then CM of West Bengal, it set in motion a long-term plan for creating more than half a dozen such units.

The cornerstone for all such collaborative ventures has always been ‘technology transfer’. It enabled Railways to build up a technology base on which it could upgrade in years to come. In this march for self-reliance, the RDSO, the R&D arm of Indian Railways, at Lucknow, has also played a significant role. While in 1950, North British Locomotive of the UK was the collaborator for CLW, Swiss Elevator and Coach Manufacturing Co. Ltd. helped in setting up Integral Coach Factory, Chennai in 1955. This was followed by a collaboration with American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1961 to manufacture diesel locomotives at DLW (Diesel Locomotive Works), Varanasi, UP.

A second coach plant viz. RCF (Rail Coach Factory) came up at Kapurthala in 1984, to manufacture high-speed coaches in collaboration with Linke Hoffman Busch of West Germany. Forming the bulk of Shatabdi and Rajdhani rakes, these provide superior riding and passenger comfort while running at the optimum speed of 130 kmph.

In 1984, Amsted Industries, US, provided the technical know-how to manufacture wheels and axles, at Wheel Axle Factory, Yellahanka, Bengaluru. A facility to make diesel components, Diesel Maintenance Works, was set up in 1982 at Patiala, Punjab. A similar one for electric locos was commissioned at Dankuni, West Bengal.

RSK (Rail Spring Karkhana), Sithouli near Gwalior, was set up to manufacture coil springs for wagon and passenger coach bogies. It was set up in 1989 on a turnkey basis by Ernst Komrowski & Co., Germany in technical collaboration with Grueber, a leading spring manufacturer, at a cost of Rs 54.04 crore. Another coach manufacturing unit, Rae Bareli, UP came up in 2012, bringing the list of Production units to eight. Over the years these excellent manufacturing facilities have also given India an edge to meet international requirements of rolling stock and locomotives.

ICF exported its first 47 bogies to Thailand in 1967 and has since exported 361 bogies and 447 coaches to over 13 Afro-Asian countries. The last order from Sri Lanka for supplying 20 rakes of six coach DEMUs earned ICF Rs 126 crore.

With a fully computerised design & development cell equipped with the state-of-the-art computer facilities, it also uses strain gauge testing and squeeze test procedures for prototypes before the commencement of series production.

Armed with an ‘ISO.9001’ certificate for its quality systems from TUV, Germany, ICF has been poised to enter the export market in a big way.

DLW, which has also been in the export business, has exported in all 137 locomotives to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Sudan, Angola, Senegal and Mali. The last order for 16 of 3100hp cape gauge locomotives to Mozambique in 2008-09 increased its footprint in Africa.

Railways is now planning to speed up electrification, resulting in reduced demand for diesel locomotives, so a scale down of production at DLW will be inevitable.

However, ample spare capacity will be available to aggressively market DLW’s manufacturing capability and expertise to make an impact in the exports market.

This will be in line with the PM’s recent initiative to become ‘manufacturer to the world’. Bharatiya Rail, in particular DLW, located in PM’s constituency, could successfully lead the charge.

The author is Former member, Railway Board

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