The railroads are a source of livelihood and income for many people, and much more use it to commute and conduct business. India is the 7th largest country in the world with a total surface area of 3.28million sq/km, and surprisingly there are barely any areas left, which the rails don’t cover. There are over 120,000 kilometres of track over a route length of 67,000 kilometres; from the dry arid regions of Rajasthan to the cold Himalayas, and from the rain infested forests of the Western Ghats to the mighty valleys of the Northeast, there isn’t a place left in the country the rails cannot reach. Its convenience makes it the most widely used form of public transport, with over eight billion passengers annually and over a million passengers every day. Such network and usage require a lot of coaches and locomotives, and India is home to over sixty thousand passenger coaches. But as it is constantly used, there is wear and tear and they need maintenance; sometimes as health and safety standards are upheld, old coaches need to be phased out and entirely new ones need to be manufactured from scratch.
The Indian Railways is a vertically-integrated organization that produces most of its rolling stock, at various manufacturing units owned by the IR itself, with a few recent exceptions. For the locomotives, the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in Chittaranjan manufactures electric locos, and the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi produces both diesel and electric locomotives. Some facilities such as the Diesel-Loco Modernization works in Patiala upgrade the currently running WDM-2 loco from 2600 horsepower to 3100 Hp. Some newer electric locomotives have been supplied by the Bharat Heavy Electricals, and various locomotive components are manufactured in many plants spread across the country.
The Coaches are produced at three different locations namely, the Integral Coach Factory, the Rail Coach Factory and the Modern Coach Factory, which are located in various parts of the country. The two manufacturers of the wheels and axels for all the loco and coaches in India are the Rail Wheel Factory, in Yelahanka and the Rail Wheel Plant in Bihar. Most of the repair and maintenance business is carried out in the 212 carriage and wagon repair units, 44 loco sheds and the 45 periodic overhaul workshops located in the many zones of the IR.
In 2015, IR awarded a 2.6 billion dollar locomotive supply and maintenance contract to General Electric. GE will import 40 locomotives and manufacture another 960 over 11 years, in a brand new Diesel Locomotive Factory at Marhowra, Bihar. At the same time, another 3 billion dollars was handed to Alstom, to manufacture 800 high power locomotives (12000hp), over the course of 11 years, in a new Electric Locomotive Factory in Madhepura.
Railway Manufacturing has come a long way since the early state-owned railways, where the rich and prosperous nations would have the most advanced ones. The IR has made it balanced, and now anyone can travel hassle-free, at the tap of a finger by checking the seat availability train status on the IR website.