Bhilai Steel Plant develops advanced ‘Switch Point Rails’ for Railways

Indian Railways is tipped to receive its first consignment of advanced ‘switch point rails’ for deployment in its network. This will help Railways’ modernize its track for coping with increased speed and heavier axle loads. The first lot of these indigeneously developed specialized rails known as ‘thick web asymmetric rails’, was dispatched by Steel Authority of India’s Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) on Saturday.

First consignment of 18 pairs of thick web asymmetric end-forged rails was flagged off on July 13, 2013, by Mr. Chandrasekaran, CEO, BSP. The project of setting a forging unit was taken on priority based on the commitment by SAIL to Railway Board. The commercial production of these facilities was inaugurated earlier by the SAIL Chairman, Mr. C.S. Verma, in January this year. The dispatch of the first consignment of these rails to Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd., Tamluk, West Bengal, marks the successful culmination of this commitment.

Utilised at the ‘crossover point’ in railway tracks, these rails have so far been completely imported since virtually none of the domestic steel companies produce it commercially. Globally too, only a few of the top steel producers including Corus, UK and a few in Austria and France produce it.

“We have developed the capability to supply the entire requirement of Indian Railways for such kind of rails,” R K Sinha, general manager Rail & Structural Mill, Bhilai Steel Plant said. Indian Railways have projected a yearly demand of 10,000 tonnes for these switch rails.

Built to stringent specifications provided by RDSO (Railway Design & Standards Organization), these are high value added steel products with average price estimated to be between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh per tonne. By sourcing them indigenously, Indian Railways’ hopes to source it at a rate that is nearly 20-30% lower than imported ones.

“These rails are critically important since it will help us plan increase in traffic loads and speeds,” a Railways’ official said.

A consignment of 18 pairs of these 13 metre rails were flagged off by BSP’s CEO Shri Chandrasekaran for dispatch by road to Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) at the Tamluk division in West Bengal. This will be followed by a second lot which is earmarked for RVNL’s Rohtak division in Haryana. More such dispatches would follow in the coming days.

Indian Railways is one of the biggest customers of SAIL. And BSP is the country’s sole supplier of rails, including long rails in lengths of 130 and 260 metre. The Railways had thus entrusted BSP with the task of forging one end of these thick web rails to enable its joining with stock rails in 2006.

Based on a commitment by SAIL to the Railway Board, the project of setting a forging unit was taken on priority basis. In step, a new End Forging Plant was installed at BSP at a cost of Rs 45.54 crore, by a consortium comprising Hydraulico, Denmark and B K Engineering, Bhilai. With the installation of End Forging Plant, Bhilai had begun commercial production of thick web asymmetric rails in January this year.

Incidentally, the Rail Mill in Bhilai has so far produced about 23.22 million tonnes (mt) of rails of which 17 mt have been for Indian Railways. In km terms, if all the rails produced by BBSP are placed one after another it would measure to 4.14 lakh km or 10.36 times the earth’s circumference.