A first: Govt invites private firms to make, export forged wheels for high-speed trains

Aiming to eventually end India’s import-dependence for its requirement of forged wheels, the Railways has finally decided to build a plant that will manufacture around 80,000 of the wheels used in high-speed trains and Linke Hoffman Busche coaches.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Friday that the plant would be set up by a private player under an assured off-take contract with the Railways in which Railways will buy 80,000 wheels for Rs 600 crore per year.

As per the tender notice, the plant is to supply 6.5 lakh tonne worth of wheels to the Railways for the next 20 years.

This is for the first time the Railways has floated a tender to invite private players to build a forged wheel plant and make wheels for high-speed trains in India, Vaishnaw said.

“We have been importing forged wheels since 1960 from European nations. Now we have decided to manufacture and also export,” he said.

Railways requires around 2 lakh forged wheels per year, a majority of which are imported. As per the plan, Steel Authority of India Limited’s Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited will provide a portion of the wheels, the rest will be provided by the proposed “Make in India” plant. The Vande Bharat train sets require these wheels.

Vaishnaw said the tender will be awarded on the condition that the plant will be an exporter of wheels too and the market will be Europe.

Currently, the Railways imports the bulk of its wheels from countries like Ukraine, Germany and the Czech Republic. The delay in procurement due to the war in Ukraine has pushed the Railways to find a solution closer home.

Railways pays around Rs 70,000 per wheel when it imports them and generally these wheels last around four-five years.

“Now, we are coming up with a Make-in-India track agreement within a month, in which very high-strength tracks will also be manufactured in the country,” he said.

In May, the Railways had awarded a contract for the supply of 39,000 Vande Bharat train wheels worth Rs 170 crore to a Chinese company as deliveries from other countries got impacted due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

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