Indian Railways’ high-speed Aluminium-bodied Talgo trainset project on fast track

In a recent development the Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR) has been reported to be considering a partnership with India’s premiere research institutes Jawaharlal Nehru Aluminium Research Development and Design Centre (JNARDDC) and Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) to develop an aluminium alloy for the Talgo bullet train coaches.

Ever since Indian Railways floated the idea of replacing steel with a light metal alloy for the manufacturing of railway coaches and wagons, JNARDDC’s name came up as the only institution working on aluminium alloy research.

“Aluminium is a sensitive material and growth of aluminium industry is good in our country.

Hence, we are working on treating it as a replacement of steel for construction of railway coaches and wagons in future,” said Prof N S Vyas, Chairman, TMIR.

According to Dr Anupam Agnihotri, Director, JNARDDC, “Aluminium alloys are approximately one-third of steel and we are able to develop hard alloy that will replace steel, paving way for manufacture of aluminium-based coaches.”

Aluminium coaches are widely being utilised by Indian Metro Rail and a few high-speed trains for the last few years but all are imported. The latest move to develop aluminium alloy coaches for Railways within the country is expected to provide the ‘Make in India’ drive its much needed momentum.

Senior officials from JNARDDC and VNIT met a few days ago to discuss further plans regarding initiating the joint venture. Two months ago, a JNARDDC delegation visited Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) at Lucknow to discuss the project. The Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is expected to be completed within a month, reported industry sources.

The ministry of Indian railways is also known to be mulling a talk with the Empowered Committee on Innovation Collaborations regarding acquiring the lightweight aluminium-bodied Talgo coaches on a ‘preferential basis.’ As per rules, railways can award contracts to lease or buy only through a global tendering process. However, the Committee, constituted in October 2015 as a part of the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog has been vested with the power to allow a contract to be awarded to a particular firm provided it qualifies certain criteria of bringing value to the country.

“We can lease a couple of rakes and we plan to go to the Committee to seek permission to engage with Talgo directly,” said an official at the ministry of railways.