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Indian Wheels for Vande Bharat Trains

October 07, 2023 11:30 IST
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IMAGE: A look inside the Integral Coach Factory, where Vande Bharat trains are manufactured in Chennai. Photograph: ANI Photo

India's iconic Vande Bharat train project may finally find a solution to its two Russian-related issues.

The first pertains to a delay in the manufacturing of 120 Vande Bharat trains, which has arisen due to differences between Russian and Indian partners within the joint venture company Kinet Railway Solutions.

The second involves a supply roadblock of forged wheels from Ukraine for the Vande Bharat trains, both of which have been triggered by the war in the region.

Kinet is a JV between Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL) and Metrowagonmash.

RVNL announced that a share purchase agreement had finally been signed between the two partners last week. Meanwhile, due to disruption in the supply of forged wheels caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, India initially had to rely on China for these components.


Now, sources reveal that Kolkata-based Ramkrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons are in the final stages of establishing a manufacturing unit to supply wheels for the flagship train. This project may require an estimated investment of around Rs 1,200 crore (Rs 12 billion).

Integral Coach Factory (ICF) officials did not respond to queries in this regard. However, it remains unclear whether the deal with the ministry of railways has been formally signed, despite the share purchase agreement between the companies.

Sudhanshu Mani, former general manager of Chennai-based ICF, who is credited with spearheading the Vande Bharat train project, mentioned that the initial issue with the supply of forged wheels from Ukraine appears to have been resolved, with Ramkrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons preparing to establish their manufacturing units. This unit is also expected to supply wheels for other trains.

Meanwhile, the Kinet venture faced delays due to differences between its partners. India traditionally relied on countries such as the UK, China, Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, Brazil, Romania, and Japan for forged wheels required for locomotives and coaching stock.

Another source confirmed that the consortium is in the process of finalising a location for the manufacturing unit.

In early 2023, Ramkrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons secured bids to establish the manufacturing unit.

According to the bid, the consortium is required to set up a forged wheel production unit capable of producing approximately 1.6 million wheel discs for various rolling stock of the Indian Railways over a 20 year period, producing about 80,000 wheels annually.

On the other hand, Kinet is tasked with manufacturing 120 Vande Bharat train sets, each costing Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.2 billion).

According to media reports, following the Ukraine war and the resulting sanctions on Russia imposed by the US and other Western countries, RVNL had requested a higher stake in the venture. This led to differences between the partners and a project delay.

After several rounds of negotiations, India agreed to maintain the earlier arrangement, with Metrowagonmash holding 70 per cent, RVNL 25 per cent, and Locomotive Electronic Systems 5 per cent.

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