By Rajkumar Makwana

The Indian Railways offers the biggest market for finished rubber products in the government sector with procurement costs of approx. Rs. 500 billion annually for different spares of which rubber goods account for almost Rs. 350 billion

The Indian Railways is engaged in running passenger and goods trains. For safe train operation, regular preventive maintenance of rolling stock, i.e. diesel electric locomotives, electric locomotives, coaches, wagons, EMU & MEMU coaches, is being carried out in Workshops, C&W Depots and Loco Sheds.

Various rubber/metal rubber bonded items are used in these rolling stock suspension system, air brake systems and buffers. These rubber items serve the purpose of shock absorption to ensure passenger comfort in passenger trains and to avoid damages to goods in wagons, safety of equipment in locomotives.

Rubber items used in air brake system provides air tightness to avoid en-route failures. Due to limited shelf-life, these rubber items are must-change items in preventive maintenance schedules and are procured annually in huge quantity.

Rise in use of rubber items

After the introduction of LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches and EMD (Electro Motive Diesel) locomotives in train operation, the requirement of rubber items has been drastically increased. Presently, 671 types of rubber items are required during maintenance of rolling stock.

The rubber components used by the Railways include Air Spring, Elastomeric Pad, Traction Motor Rubber Bellow, Upper & Lower Washer, Rubber Buffer Spring, Silent Block, Draft Gear Pad, Air Brake Hose etc.
Further, due to ever increasing population of LHB coaches and EMD locomotives in train services, the Indian Railways will prove as the biggest market for finished rubber products in the government sector. The Indian Railway procurement costs approx. Rs. 500 billion annually for different spares required in maintenance of locomotives, coaches and wagons, of which rubber goods account for almost Rs. 350 billion.

‘Make in India’ push

Since many of the items required by the Railways are imported now, there is good scope for manufacturing these products domestically under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Rubber products manufacturers and others are free to contact the Railways to get information on RDSO (Research Designs and Standards Organisation) as well as non-RDSO-controlled rubber items for which limited supplies are available and participate in the tendering procedure.

They can also get samples of the items along with description, drawing, technical specification showing raw material, manufacturing process, purpose of item, characteristics of rubber, confirmatory tests involved, annual requirement, latest purchase rate etc. RDSO also has a portal — https://rdso.indianrailways.gov.in/ – for guidance of the vendors.
(This article is based on the presentation made by the author at the International Rubber Conference held as part of India Rubber Expo (IRE) 2019, in Mumbai).