Indian Railways is paving the way for the export of its flagship Vande Bharat locomotives, receiving initial inquiries from Chile. While these discussions are yet to materialize into concrete orders, the Railways is actively exploring the export potential of its indigenous technology.
The Vande Bharat trains, known for their sleek design, superior speed, and modern amenities, have garnered international attention. India has been showcasing these locomotives as a key export offering, particularly targeting Latin American and African nations where electric locomotives are in demand.
Domestic Priority Remains
Despite the export interest, the Railways' immediate focus remains on catering to the domestic market. Before making design modifications for international compatibility, the Railways will ensure that domestic demand is fully met. Additionally, the availability of manufacturing facilities to meet both domestic and export requirements is being carefully assessed.
"Chile has expressed some interest in the Vande Bharat designs," a senior Railways official told media, adding that these discussions are still at a preliminary stage. The official expressed optimism about the export potential, stating, "It is good to see international interest in these indigenous designs now."
Customization for Standard Gauges
While the current Vande Bharat trains are designed for broad gauge, the Railways may need to customize them to run on standard gauges used by many countries worldwide. This customization would involve adapting the trains' bogies, the wheeled frames that support the train's body, to suit the standard gauge track width.
The manufacturing cost of a 16-coach Vande Bharat train is estimated around ₹130 crore. To enhance its export competitiveness, the Railways may consider cost optimization measures, such as sourcing components domestically and exploring alternative manufacturing processes.
RITES: Spearheading Rail Exports
The Indian Railways' export arm, RITES, has been actively pursuing export opportunities and has secured rolling stock orders worth ₹2,100 crore. These orders include supplying diesel multiple units (DMUs), locomotives, and coaches to Sri Lanka and Mozambique.
India is also aiming to become an exporter of forged wheels, the crucial components that connect the train's bogies to the axles. A consortium of Ramkrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons is setting up a manufacturing unit with an annual capacity of producing 228,000 wheels.
"The Ministry has given an assured offtake of 80,000 wheels a year, whereas the remaining (close to 140,000) would be pushed for exports," said the Railways official. The construction of the manufacturing unit is expected to begin within the next six months.
Reducing Import Dependency
India currently imports forged wheels from various countries, with an annual import bill of around ₹520 crore. The new manufacturing unit is expected to reduce this import dependency and establish India as a global supplier of forged wheels.
India's foray into exporting Vande Bharat locomotives and forged wheels marks a significant step in its journey towards becoming a global leader in railway technology. The Railways' strategic approach, balancing domestic priorities with export potential, is poised to drive India's growth in the international rail market.