When two large organisations collaborate, it makes a far-reaching and resounding impact. The case in point is the collaboration between Indian Railways and Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) for more than six decades. While Railways is the heart of the transport infrastructure of our country, SAIL is the most trusted and longstanding supplier of rails and forged wheels to Indian Railways. They complement each other. Both the behemoths have created strong synergy and have all along played vital roles in the development and progress of our country. While SAIL’s Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) produces world-class rails that crisscross the country, its Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) is the only forged wheel producer in India for passenger coaches, wagons and locomotives. Together RAIL and SAIL make a formidable combination, which touches the life of every citizen of the country.
To cater to the changing requirements of Indian Railways, SAIL has continuously developed its products to meet and in some cases even go beyond the exacting standards. In rails, it has steadily rolled out the required volume, quality and length of rails (which has gradually increased from 13 meter to 260 meter), year after year. In wheels, SAIL has supplied more than 1.8 million units of wheels of various dimensions ranging from 720 mm to 1,100 mm of diameter to Indian Railways in the last six decades.
The finding of the (RDCIS), Asia’s largest iron and steel-related research centre at Ranchi, shows that SAIL-BSP has the capability to produce rails, which can safely support 25 tonne axle load while also allowing passenger trains to travel at 160 kmph. Currently, SAIL is the only producer of the longest single piece rails measuring 130 meters. The report of the Transportation Technology Centre Inc. (TTCI), USA, a world-class transportation research and testing organization, and a wholly-owned subsidiary, Association American Railroads (AAR), shows that wheels produced at SAIL-DSP conform to international standards and provide for excellent serviceability in train operations.
SAIL is committed to be a partner in Indian Railways’ endeavor to increase average traffic speed economically without any compromise on safety. It is pertinent to mention here that the quality of rails produced by SAIL-BSP is in tandem with the quality of rails used in the European Union. In fact, the European Union uses the same quality of rails, which is equivalent to UTS-90 rails produced by SAIL, for speed up to 150 km/hr. The wheels produced at SAIL-DSP have exhibited proven performance in diverse terrains and climate of the country and have been in use for speed up to 160 Km/hr.
SAIL is working relentlessly on improving further the quality of its rails, which include reducing the hydrogen content in rail steel to less than 1.6 ppm, which is the world benchmark, successfully developing 110 UTS rails, thick web asymmetrical rails, vanadium rails, and nickel-copper-chromium (NCC) rails. The NCC corrosion-resistant rails that SAIL-BSP developed and supplied for coastal areas have successfully undergone field trials. For wheels, to maintain superior quality, it is produced through state-of-the-art manufacturing process, including heat treatment, and is passed through a rigorous process and quality control measures. Each wheel is subjected to ultrasonic testing and magnetic particle inspection to ensure that it is free from sub-surface flaws. Wheel selected from each batch of heat treatment is subjected to all the destructive tests to ensure the quality. Recently, SAIL has developed with in-house resources the Linke-Hofmann-Busch (LHB) wheels, the first consignment of which has already been dispatched. Earlier, responding to urgent requirement, SAIL-DSP developed, produced and supplied narrow gauge wheels for the Kalka-Shimla narrow-gauge route and played a key role to keep this popular route alive. SAIL has also developed and supplied wheels for Kolkata Metro, which used to be imported earlier. The design of these wheels is different and critical due to its complex web profile.
The collaboration between Indian Railways and SAIL has revolutionised the transportation scenario in the country. This successful partnership, which has been moving the nation for decades, will continue to be a reckoning force behind accelerating the country’s growth and transformation into new India.