Exclusive Interview with Rajesh Agrawal, Member (Rolling Stock), Railway Board

This is an ongoing exercise that has already been cut-in with all-new manufacture of coaches, retro-fitment in existing coaches & maintenance-depots and improvements as technology improves with time.

Exclusive Interview with Rajesh Agrawal, Member (Rolling Stock), Railway Board
Exclusive Interview with Rajesh Agrawal, Member (Rolling Stock), Railway Board

Metro Rail News team conduct an e-mail interview with Mr. Rajesh Agrawal, Member (Rolling Stock), Railway Board and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India. He talks about Railway automation and digitisation impact, execution and future plans. here are the edited excerpts:-

Why does the Indian Railway need to implement Automation and digitization?

Mr. Rajesh Agrawal: In 2019; it has been my proud privilege to head the Rolling Stock department of the Great Indian Railways that is amongst the largest Railways and a socio-economic lifeline of our vast country. In keeping with the inspiration of our Hon’ble PM to Perform, Reform and Transform; we successfully made this a game changer year in Indian Railways for Technological Transformation of Trains. For this purpose; an extraordinary initiative was taken for Automation and Digitisation that has led to Visible and discernible impact of our Transformation initiatives in Indian Railways for India and beyond.

From where you get the idea of Automation and digitization?

Mr. Agrawal: My Science, Mathematics & Triple Engineering graduation background, Passion for Technology from childhood, proficiency in Computers since Microsoft DOS 1.0 in mid Eighties and vast experience of almost 4 decades has always enabled me with Technology solutions for Industrial Automation in a connected world to deliver exponential progress. As Apex in-charge in 2019 for Rolling Stock; I got a valuable opportunity to use my knowledge, skills and aptitude in Automation & Digitisation for the effective Transformation of Rolling Stock in Indian Railways like never before.

How the Automation and digitization will affect Indian Railways? What are the current steps you have already taken to implement Automation and digitization? 

Mr. Agrawal: The railway is all about Trains a.k.a Rolling Stock. In 2018; The synergy, initiatives and efforts of our Rolling Stock team of almost 2000 officers and over 300,000 staff has been unprecedented with wholehearted efforts to Digitisation and Automation for transformation in 2019 all the five major areas as follows:-

1) SMART Coaches IoTs, Sensors, SCADA, networking, analytics, diagnostics, alerts etc have been conceptualized and rolled out for significantly improved inspirational Passenger Experience with Awe, Ambience & Amenities.

2) Train-sets with TCMS (Train Control and Management System) for Reshaping of countrywide mobility to Hub & Spoke high-speed movement through World class state of the art Trains

  • Intercity 130-160kmph (Vande Bharat) to identified hubs at average speeds of 90-110 kmph rather than existing 45-55 kmph.
  • Regional 100-160 kmph (MEMU) for movement within a region up to 500 kms again at around double of the current average speeds.
  • Suburban 80-120 kmph (EMU) with speeds increased up to 120 kmph and in more metro cities in India
  • Metro that Railways too can make more economically and sustainably.

3. Reducing the high Logistics cost as per National Logistics Policy for Safe, Secure and Swift movement of Goods in India.

  • Digital 3-D parametric Design/Simulation/Development for the concept to Roll out within the same year rather than several years.
  • SMART Yards with Trackside sensors/diagnostics, RFID, etc at around 40 locations covering most of the movement with predictive maintenance > higher axle load of 25T has been made possible for the first time.
  • higher speed up to 100kmph with 25T axle load has been made possible for the first time
  • higher load ability for bulk and non-bulk commodities has been made possible for the first time to significantly improve rail share of freight especially in automobiles, 2-wheelers, trucks, containers, steel-coils, fly ash, etc.

4. Industry 4.0 Robotic & Cyber-Physical enabled Manufacture in terms of the National Policy for Advanced Manufacturing and improving Share of manufacturing in India’s GDP for World-class Quality and Exponential growth in Quantities

  • Exponential jump in Manufacturing in all units becoming largest coach producers in the world.
  • Upscaling manufacture to State-of-Art and fit for large scale exports-> Eliminating shortage of coaches for the first time in India

5) Environment Impact as per National / International commitments

  • Bio-toilets as the most significant Swatch Bharat initiative impacting all Trains, all Stations and the country at large
  • Meeting our Railway NDC commitments perhaps by 2022 instead of 2030.

How Automation and digitization will affect employment in Indian Railways? 

Mr. Agrawal: As above; the Scale has been enabled to grow exponentially for Existing Passenger services, Train-sets, Freight and Manufacturing that is resulting in large scale creation of jobs in IT, Goods and Services.

How digital services for rolling stock will help to reduce the overall cost of maintenance?  

Mr. Agrawal: This has already happened as the huge increase in Coaches, wagons and manufacturing are being done only with existing man-power, yard-sticks for maintenance have been reduced and the predictive maintenance regime that has been ushered in will reduce the cost of maintenance.

What is the estimated cost to automate and integrate the train control system? 
Mr. Agrawal: This is a part of ongoing revenue and capital expenditure that results in an increase in productivity, reducing time & cost of maintenance, better utilisation & availability of assets, timely need-based predictive maintenance rather than costly preventive-maintenance/breakdown and increase in revenues & decrease in expenditure as a consequence.

How will Automation and digitization be useful for passengers? How much time it will take to complete Automation and digitization Railways? 

Mr. Agrawal: As mentioned above in the steps already taken; passenger train manufacture, amenities, experience & services are improved with a motto to Perform, Reform & Transform with Skill, Scale & Speed. This is an ongoing exercise that has already been cut-in with all-new manufacture of coaches, retro-fitment in existing coaches & maintenance-depots and improvements as technology improves with time.
Our booklet and conference are being held tomorrow with Industry leaders and partners to showcase the game-change of 2019 in Indian Railways for Technological Transformation of Trains and the way forward.

This interview covered in Metro Rail News Jan 2020 issue.

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