The consortium of Ramkrishna Forgings and Titagarh Wagons will start production of forged wheels for Vande Bharat trains at Gummidipoondi near Chennai in 16-18 months, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology said on Thursday.

Also, work is on for exporting Vande Bharat trains. This requires developing ‘standard guage’ Vande Bharat trains, the Minister said. Construction of the Gummidipoondi forged wheel plant is in full swing, he added.

The Minister said the wheels being used in Vande Bharat are of special quality and are special forgings. The wheels used in wagons are cast in Bengaluru. However, the forging process, an advanced wheel manufacturing method, will be done in Tamil Nadu.

This manufacturing unit in Gummidipoondi will have a huge production capacity of 2.5 lakh per year, of which, 80,000 will be consumed in India, and the rest exported. “We have been importers of forged wheels for 60-70 years. However, with this plant, India will become an exporter of forged wheels,” he said after inaugurating Qualcomm’s Chennai Design Centre on Thursday.

In May 2023, the consortium said that the total quantity of forged wheels to be supplied will be around 15,40,000 wheels over 20 years.

Standard gauge

The Minister also announced that Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, will develop a standard gauge Vande Bharat. Standard gauge is used in Railways across the world. Today, broad gauge Vande Bharat is being manufactured in ICF for use in the Indian Railway network.

“We have to export Vande Bharat rakes in five years for which we have to start now. The process of designing, testing, getting national and international approval and manufacturing is a lengthy process. This will add to the export potential of ICF in Chennai,” he said.

On March 11, businessline reported that Vande Bharat trains with a capacity to run at 200 kmph will be on the tracks soon. The ICF had called for an Expression of Interest(EoI) in designing 200 kmph standard gauge bogies for the Vande Bharat trainsets. The scope of work is to review the design of Bogies to operate in Surat to Bilimora (47 km) of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor. At present, the maximum speed of Vande Bharat is 160 kmph.

The EoI says that the bogie shall be designed for a service life of 35 years under standard maintenance practices. The current wheel diameter of the Vande Bharat bogie is 952 mm. It is planned to retain the same wheel diameter. However, the design should also include wheel sizes of 915 mm.

The 12-car trainset will be 288 m long and 3.24 m wide. A motorised retractable footstep will be considered to bridge the gap between the car and the platform. For all other dimensions, the trainset will have to comply with the MAHSR schedule of dimensions. The maximum axle load for all types of cars in the trainset shall be limited to 17 tonnes, the EoI said.