View from India: Enhanced safety and speed for future train journeys
Image credit: Wabtec India
India is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for railways. Speed and high-tech amenities will distinguish the trains of the future. Along with that, last-mile connectivity is a key concern. These parameters have put the Indian railways on to a new track; it’s an interesting journey ahead.
A confluence of factors has opened out opportunities for players in the railway segment. The National Metro Rail Policy (2017) indicated that cities with a population of over two million could opt for the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS).
The government announced 5,000km of Metro rail network by 2047 in 100 cities. The market overview of urban transit points to a thrust on Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS), a semi high-speed rail that plans to lower the dependence on road-based travel.
RRTS, under construction by the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC), will connect Delhi with its distant suburbs. The purpose is to improve regional connectivity within the National Capital Region (NCR). Besides this, two new RRTS corridors are in the pipeline in Telangana.
Metro is another growth driver. Apart from the existing cities, the upcoming Smart Cities as well as tier cities will connect commuters within the city through metro lines that can be laid above and below the ground. At another level, Vande Bharat (VB) Express (pictured) has accelerated the pace of domestic travel. VB is India’s first semi high-speed train. VB has redefined train journeys, with its automatic doors, GPS based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot Wi-Fi for entertainment and comfortable seating.
Designed and manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, this high-performance train was signed off in 2019. In the Union Budget 2022-23, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that 400 new-generation Vande Bharat Trains with better energy efficiency and passenger riding experience will be developed and manufactured over the next three years. This could open up newer avenues, perhaps even unexplored ones for equipment-component manufacturers and service providers.
It’s understandable, then, that Wabtec Corporation has chalked out plans to address the demands of rail transportation. The company is a global provider of equipment, systems, digital solutions and value-added services for the freight and transit rail industries. Already Wabtec is on track, with its portfolio of offerings customised for the railways. Brake panel assembly, brake electronics, automatic doors and couplers are already being supplied for the VB Express.
“We are seeing a steady growth in order from various customers in the railway and metro segments and this expansion will allow us to keep up with the customer demand. Many of these product lines are also part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative and meeting the charter of localised, customised products,” said Ajay Mani, managing director of Wabtec’s transit business in India.
From its facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, the company operates in six segments, namely e-loco, LHB, train sets, EMU/MEMU, urban metro and regional trains. Brake system orders are being executed for the Mumbai metro along with orders from the Indian Railways.
“The customer range includes Indian Railways, metro operators (BEMRCL, CMRL, DMRCL), and loco, wagon and car manufacturers such as BHEL, BEML and Siemens. We hope to grow the business by over 56 per cent, from the current ₹1,600 crore to ₹2,500 crore in the next three years,” added Mani.
The fact that the railways are modernising the rolling stock as well as electrifying the network could well give Wabtec a boost. The company intends to operationalise its new facility in Rohtak in Haryana. A sum of ₹150 crore is being invested in the facility, which may be operational by December.
The company is among the largest equipment manufacturers for rolling stock for Indian Railways and metro networks in India. It supplies couplers, brake controls, automatic doors, HVAC and pantographs to Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) and Alstom.
In a nutshell, the future of train journeys will likely mean safety enhancements, infrastructure upgrades and reduced travel time. An ecosystem needs to be built to take this forward. Already, Indian Railways ranks among the world’s leading employers. With its futuristic demands, there could also be new vistas for train logistics providers. Chug along these lines for greener, safer and speedier journeys.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.