Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated that establishing a plant will guarantee the yearly purchase of at least 80,000 wheels for 600 crore rupees.
An official said the estimated cost of setting up a production unit is close to Rs 1,000 crore, and that the tender is only open to Indian companies. The ministry earlier relied on imports from Europe for these specialized wheels.
The issue came to light when national transporter recently ordered 39,000 semi-forged wheels from a Chinese manufacturer, alleging interrupted European supply chains on account of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Vaishnaw said the ministry had tried hard to ensure supply from Europe but had to end up awarding the contract to a Chinese firm. The ministry suffered a setback caused by disruption at the RINL plant in Raebareli. “As of now, RINL has sorted out a lot of its issues at the plant,” Vaishnaw said.
He said a condition in the forged-wheels tender is that the bidder must also be able to export these wheels, adding that potential markets such as Europe are currently being identified.
The minister said there is no established forged wheels player in India currently, hence the technical qualifications have been set in a way that only companies with extensive experience in manufacturing forged metals can qualify.
Vaishnaw also announced that the next step is for the ministry to develop better railway track infrastructure conducive for high-speed and semi-high-speed trains, and a tender for the same will be floated soon.
The ministry also completed testing of the light-weight Vande Bharat trains (VB-2), which are roughly 38 tonnes lighter than the first version, currently operational in the country. Vaishnaw had earlier shared a video of the VB-1 running at a speed of 180 kilometres/hour (km/h), 20 km/h higher than VB-1.
He announced that the VB-2 will come equipped with in-built air purifiers, content-on-demand, and recliner seats in both executive and non-executive classes.