As the Russia-Ukraine war halted the manufacturing and transport of wheels for the rakes impacting the production of Vande Bharat trains, Indian Railways for the first time floated tenders to invite private players to build a wheel plant. This move will make India self-reliant as well as draws a blueprint to become an exporter of wheels. The plant is aiming to manufacture at least 80,000 wheels every year for the super-fast Vande Bharat Express trains in India, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Friday.
According to the plan, the new plant will be able to produce around 80,000 wheels a year. While the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) will supply one lakh wheels, the rest will be made by the new plant.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on August 15, 2021, his vision of having 75 ‘Vande Bharat’ trains that will connect different parts of the country in 75 weeks to mark ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The target now is to roll out 75 such trains by August 15, 2023. At present, there are three Vande Bharat Express trains, two on tracks and the third that recently conducted successful trail runs.
Addressing a press briefing, the Minister said that the tender will be awarded on the basis of the company’s ability to export wheels and also the country’s potential to become an export hub for the wheels. The tender mandates that the manufacturing plant has to become operational by 18 months.
Due to the war in Ukraine, the production of wheels for the rakes was stopped. Out of a total order of 36,200 wheels, the first batch of 128 wheels was transported from Ukraine to Romania. They will be airlifted to India by May 3.
According to officials, Ukraine is one of the largest producers of wheels in the world. It gets around 75% of its orders from the EU for the manufacture of freight railcars wheels.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways is expected to start manufacturing the wheels at its facility in Yelahanka, which has already received several tenders, the Indian Express has reported. The factory has been manufacturing axles for these wheels, even the imported ones.