Indian Railways Transforming to High Tech from a Romantic Past
Comment: The largest state owned railway in the world is a miracle of complexity and transforming it from its 19th century past, will present UK companies of all sizes with opportunities to revolutionise Indian railways into a brighter future.
Indian state railways is the 4th largest in the world 63,974km of track and with 1.4 million employees, is one of the worlds’ largest employers. Some of its statistics are simply staggering. Each day it runs some 19,000 trains (7,000 of them dedicated to freight) to 7,083 stations and transports 2.65m tonnes of freight. Some 23m passengers are transported daily, with 7.2billion annually, or put another way, more than the entire world population is transported annually. And yet, Indian Railways is one on the oldest, the first train running in 1843 between Thane and Bombay.
The Indian Government is committed to upgrading the rail system to world class standards and some highlights from the railway budget of 2012 – 2013 give an idea of the scale of the tasks involved. During the period of the plan, more than a 1000 new stations will be set up through public-private partnership, with a further 929 being upgraded.
Some 1,500 new coaches will be built for Mumbai local trains and 2,100 specially designed coaches will be manufactured to meet the needs of the disabled the aim to provide one coach in each express train.
Improving safety measures such as timely track renewal modernisation of signals, use of safety equipment such as digital ultrasonic flaw detection machines and wheel impact load detectors etc, are a feature of the plan over the next 5 years which focuses on five main areas; track, bridges, signaling, rolling stock and station.
There is also a drive to develop dedicated Western and Eastern freight corridors known as the ‘Diamond Corridors’ with various additional trunk routes being considered in pre-feasibility studies. The total construction cost of the Dedicated Freight corridor is estimated to be approximately US$ 7.2 billion.
Only this month, the Maharashtra government has given the green light for the state’s second Metro project to be built in Pune. State and central governments will each contribute 20 per cent towards the project, 10 per cent from PMC and the remaining 50 per cent through debt-equity.
The entire project is expected to be completed within five years, including three years for the construction alone.
Giant projects like these can present opportunities at all levels for UK suppliers from the design and production of high tech equipment to vital small items like fastenings, ticketing and labels.