India becomes Atmanirbhar in Head Hardened Rail Production

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Rails manufactured by JSPL.
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The government must make policies to curtail rail imports in a move to promote indigenous rails and their manufacturers.

Growing cities, growing population and growing traffic has invariably called for a shift from private modes of conveyance to public transport. India is looking to create a world-class infrastructure with its existent Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Jaipur, and Kochi metros with the addition of Pune, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Ludhiana, Bhopal, Indore, Agra, Kanpur and Faridabad are being chalked out.

Metro Rail Tracks are designed to conform to the appropriate load category according to UIC Leaflet 700; axle loads of Coach and for a Train speed of 90 kmph and shall enable a level of passenger comfort as per international standards throughout the service life of the Rail System.
Rails on Metro tracks suffer lateral and vertical wear due to load applied on Rails by wheels. This is predominantly due to large traffic movement and sharp curves. In order to optimize utilization of Rails for increase service life and reduce degradation due to wear and rolling contact fatigue, it is recommended to use Head Hardened Rails. Head Hardened Rails offers better service life and thereby Rail replacement frequency from Challenging Underground and Elevated Viaduct sections is reduced. And hence Metro Projects are predominantly designed on Head Hardened Rails Under the GOI ambitious “Make in India” scheme, the two large steel manufacturers in India took up the initiative to develop “Head Hardened Rails” to meet the growing demand of Metro Rail Corporations and High-Speed corridor projects indigenously. 

However it is seen that all Metro Rail Corporations and High-Speed Rail projects are still insisting on imports of Head Hardened rails excusing lack in faith due to little or no experience of manufacturing by New Indian Rail Mills Renowned Rail Track Expert and President of Rail Consult India, who worked in RDSO and was Additional Member Civil, Railway Board, Mr. J S Mundrey submits his concern over negligence of GOI Policy and Domestic capability by these projects. He further states that:  

“In India, we have now Two Rail Rolling Mills who have adopted “the state of the art technology “ in producing Rails to National and International Specifications, But they could not participate in the Rail tenders of Metro Rail Corporations & NCRTC as they were unable to meet the “ Contractual and Technical Experience “ prescribed in the tender documents.

THE SUPPLY ORDER HAS THEREFORE BEEN PLACED ON AN OUT-SHORE COMPANY. 

Having worked in the Indian Railways for long years, out of that FOUR years in RDSO in the Track Modernisation Cell and FIVE years as Adviser Civil Engineering Railway Board, having written the book,” Railway Track Engineering”, and presently engaged in Track Consultancy assignments, nationally and internationally, I can claim to have some knowledge of Railway Track Technology. I would thus submit, in all humility, as under, for serious consideration. 

Over half a century ago, when Indian Railways used to import all their Rails, the stipulations of Experience, as made in Rail tender, was made as an additional safeguard, to be sure about the capacity of the Rail Mills, not known to us. Once Bhilai Rail Mill was established Indian Railways had no need to import Rails. It is now since last few years Metros started importing Rails of the Specifications not produced by Indian Mills.

Once the Indian Rail Mills have started producing such Rails, fully meeting the technical requirements stipulated in Relevant Specification, asking them to meet the Experience requirements is a negation of their right of supply of Rails to their own National Railways. One can also ask as from where they can get experience when their own Railway System is reluctant to use their Rails

  1. I would further submit that much water has flown through River Ganges, when the Experience Stipulations were made in the Tender documents about HALF a Century ago, as brought out below.
  2. Rail making Technology has undergone a sea change. Rails Steel is coming through Concast route, with RH Degassing, completely eliminating the piping in the rails, a major cause of Rail fractures. 
  3. Rail chemistry is well controlled. Hydrogen content in the Rails produced by Indian Rail Mill is now Less than 1.6 ppm, much below the international Standards. 
  4. Modern cooling methods and the sophisticated Rail Straightening Machines bring down the Residual Stresses to the bare minimum. 
  5. Ultrasonic Testing of full Rails and Eddy current Testing do not allow any defective rails to pass, undetected. 
  6. With these developments, Rails produced to the required Specification, no certificate of experience is needed from the mill and the Rails produced by our Indian Mills, can go straight to the Track. 
  7. Inspection is done by RITES, further assures the quality, durability and performance of Rails.  
  8. It is doubtful if any World Class Railway System is demanding an experience certificate after the Rails are produced to the laid down Specification. 
  9. Field Trials of Rails for a period of 2-3 year, shows a lack of understanding of Rail Technology. The Track Engineers should know that Field Trials of only such Track items is carried out, where certain specified parameters are evaluated after one year or so, to determine the deterioration behaviour, such as in Elastic Fastenings. 
  10. In Rails when no such parameters are identified and measured, Trials are meaningless. 
  11. Recently Trials for one year were undertaken by the Rails supplied by an Indian Rail Mill. No manufacturing defects could be found, as expected, and Rails produced by that mill have been cleared for general adoption. It has been a sheer waste of resources at various levels. 

INDIAN RAILWAYS THEMSELVES DO NOT CONSIDER THE NEED FOR ULTRASONIC TESTING OF RAILS FOR 25% Of THE STIPULATED SERVICE LIFE, WHICH MEANS SEVERAL YEARS IN TRACK. ONE YEAR TRIAL OF RAILS IS THEREFORE MEANINGLESS

In NUTSHELL I would therefore humbly suggest that: 

Once the Rails have been manufactured by our own mill, strictly following the Laid down Specification, there is no need for asking for an experience certificate from them, as that only means to throw them out of the ring. One year Trials of Rails is a waste of resources as nothing can come out of such Trial in the absence of a well laid down parameters to be measured after the Trial, and that is not possible for RAILS. 

Hopefully, with this long narration of mine, there will be fresh thinking on the important issues of EXPERIENCE & TRIALS with respect to the Rails produced by our own Rail Mills. This will be in the interest of NCRTC, Metro Rail Corporations, Indian Railways and the INDIA as a whole. Surely it will be furthering the cause of ATAM NIRBHAR BHARAT, much in line with the vision of our Prime minister.

  • Views expressed are personal.
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