by Alain Spohr, Managing Director, Alstom India and South Asia
Indian Railways operates the world’s fourth-largest network. However, an ambitious journey requires freight and passengers to be transported at much higher speed to fulfil the aspirations of New India. Alstom is excited to be partnering with Indian Railways on several projects through its revolutionary innovative products, thus enabling IR to move towards being ‘Green Railways’.
A few year ago, Indian Railways required modernization on many fronts. Growing network congestion, a legacy infrastructure that did not support high-speed trains, lack of advanced signalling systems, and maintenance, all these factors left them lagging, in comparison with its global peers. However, their topmost priority was to decongest the network.
For the longest time, IR operated passenger and freight trains on the same line. When two trains would approach a section, Rajdhani and Shatabdi would get the first right to passage, and freight trains would get the last priority.This contributed significantly to the delay in freight trains, which led to increase in road transport for moving goods. Soon enough, trucks captured the market share from freight trains.
The ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project is a befitting strategic response by Indian Railways towards decongesting upto 70% of its network and to add further capacity. The reinvigoration efforts will address some of the crucial gridlock zones along the Eastern and Western Corridors, which are currently running at 115-150% of utilization. Thus, DFC became a big leap in the modernisation efforts of IR. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal also presented a phase-wise plan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2019 breaking it into year-wise targets to raise the speed of trains from 25-km per hour to 30-km per hour (2020-21), 34km per hour (2021-22), 39km per hour (2022-23) and 45km per hour by 2024.
The Dedicated Freight Corridor will lead to fewer emissions of greenhouse gases as it facilitates the operation of electric trains. Furthermore, they will enable safer and timely movement of freight across the country and reduce the traffic on the corridor for passenger trains.
Alstom’s role in the prestigious Dedicated Freight Corridor project
Alstom is contributing across four critical areas of DFC:
- Heavy Engineering
- Operations Control Centre
- Electric locomotives
- Ultramodern maintenance depots
Alstom’s scope of work includes electrification, Signaling and telecommunication systems along the 343 kms stretch on Eastern DFC. As part of the contract, Alstom has also built sub-stations and one of the world’s largest Operations Control Centre (OCC), at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh monitoring operations on the entire eastern stretch of DFC.
Till date, over 1250 fully loaded commercial goods trains have been successfully operated in 200 kms section of 102/103 and fully monitored by OCC. This is now the ONLY ELECTRIFIED DFC in the country.
Alstom achieved another milestone this Independence Day (15 August 2020), by enabling successful trial run of an electric locomotive on the UP-Line of 145 kms of Bhaupur-Bhadan section. With this, Alstom has become the first company to attain such a level of completion of OHE in tandem with track works. Very soon, the entire 343 kms. freight corridor from Bhaupur-Khurja will be fully functional.
Operations Control Centre
Alstom has also set-up one of the world’s largest Operations Control Centres (OCC), in Prayagraj for Indian Railways. Built on Alstom’s ICONIS (Integrated Control and Information System) signalling platform, this OCC will monitor all the trains movements along the Eastern corridor as it enables seamless supervision and control offering ‘Integrated Train Management System (ITMS). On the 80-meter wide video screen, applauded by the World Bank, the entire freight traffic from Kolkata to Ludhiana can be viewed and controlled through these giant screens installed. Signals, electrical substations, access to get into the substations and every other operation on the EDFC will be monitored and controlled at OCC, significantly reducing the downtime.
Delivering India’s Fastest Electric Locomotives
Until recently, Indian Railways has been extremely independent and never had joint ventures for its large projects. Signing a partnership with Alstom in 2015 marked the beginning of a new era for Indian Railways. For Alstom, it was ‘A first of its kind Make-in-India challenge’, that delivered a technological breakthrough for the country. The contract worth €3.5 billion includes manufacturing of 800 double-section, 12000-horsepower electric locomotives for freight service and associated maintenance for a period of 11 years.
This Joint Venture between Alstom & Indian Railways is one of the strongest endorsements of Make-in-India for various reasons – a highly localised supplier base has been put in place for execution and technology transfer has added to building local engineering capabilities. More than 85% of the components used to manufacture these locomotives are being sourced from India.
Prima WAG12, the electric locomotives, will revolutionize freight logistics in the country. It will allow faster and safer movement of heavy freight trains, capable of hauling 6000 tonnes at a top speed of 120 km/h. Planned for deployment on Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs), they will increase the average speed of freight trains in India by approximately 25 km/h. Equipped with Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBT) propulsion technology, the e-locos will also allow considerable savings in energy consumption thanks to the use of regenerative braking.
Designed at Alstom’s Engineering Centre in Bengaluru, the e-locos are being built in one of India’s largest integrated greenfield manufacturing facilities at Madhepura (Bihar). Spread across 250 acres, with a production capacity of 120 locomotives per annum, this industrial site is built to international standards of safety and quality. The project envisions to create more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the country (primarily in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra).
Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Alstom has been able to successfully manufacture and deliver 24 units to Indian Railways in the last couple of months. All the 24 elocos have been deployed for commercial operations. As per plan, 75 units will be delivered in FY 20/21. Starting next fiscal, 100 units will be delivered annually.
Ultramodern maintenance depots
Under the contract, Alstom will build two ultramodern maintenance depots which will use predictive technologies to ensure high availability of the e-locos and reduce maintenance cost. Work is underway for the construction of the maintenance depot in Nagpur, while the depot at Saharanpur is fully functional.
Equipped with modern features, these depots will have a substantial role in maintaining India’s most advanced freight locomotives at significantly lower costs. Saharanpur depot also has a ‘Training Centre’ equipped with a loco simulator and smart classrooms being used for skill development of railway employees. To date, more than 500 loco pilots from Indian Railways have been trained, and going forward, 500 will be trained annually.
Globally, Alstom is associated with almost every prominent railway organisation and Indian Railways, is one of the largest Railway entities in the world. The joint venture combines innovation with responsibility and together Alstom is committed to delivering safe, reliable and efficient solutions. It is excited to be part of this revolutionary journey of Indian Railways.