Indian Railways is looking to reduce its import dependence on Russia, China and European countries for forged wheels for its trains and locomotives. The national transporter has been importing forged wheels from the Czech Republic, Brazil, Romani, Japan, China, Ukraine, Russia and the UK since the 1960s.
The supply for wheels was hit last year as a fallout of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war. According to railways, at present the requirement for wheels is being met from China. The impact came to light since the production of Vande Bharat Express rakes was also hit due to the delay in import of wheels from Ukraine. Indian Railways has now decided to step up its capacity to manufacture ‘Make in India’ forged wheels for trains.
A tender for setting up a new plant was floated last year for the manufacture of 80,000 wheels per annum over the next 20 years. The tender was opened recently and the consortium of Ramakrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons has emerged as the lowest bidder.
In 2022-23, 80,000 wheels worth Rs 520 crore were imported from China and Russia, while the remaining 40,000 were sourced from SAIL.
Indian Railways projects that the requirement of wheels will go up to 2 lakh per annum by 2026 with the induction of more semi-high speed trains. At present, SAIL can manufacture 40,000 wheels per annum for railways and RINL with a capacity of 80,000 wheels is yet to start regular commercial production.
Shri Prakash, former Railway Board Member says that the project is a “very good step” in the right direction. “This is an important step. The domestic manufacturers need to ensure that the quality of the steel used is up to the mark,”. Railway expert G Raghuram also calls it a much-needed initiative. “With the induction of Vande Bharat trains and more semi-high speed trains, the demand for forged wheels will go up, so it makes sense to step up the domestic manufacturing capacity,”.
Three bidders; Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Bharat Forge and Ramakrishna Forgings submitted the bids for this ‘Make in India’ tender. Bharat Forge emerged the second lowest bidder and SAIL the third.
The successful bidder, that is Ramakrishna Forgings, has to set up the manufacturing facility within 36 months from award date. According to Indian Railways, considering the learning curve and economies of volume, the price applicable will be reduced by 2% every year up to 3 years. The 4th year onwards the applicable price will be 94% of the quoted price which is valid for the balance period.
Indian Railways will procure 80,000 wheels every year at Rs 600 crore every year to begin with. After meeting the requirement of Indian Railways, the manufacturer will be allowed to export these wheels as well.
With the setting up of the new plant for forged wheels, Indian Railways hopes to soon meet the entire requirement of forged wheels for its locomotives and trains domestically.