It is well known that almost all rail operations in India are handled by the Ministry of Railways. The organization has its own facilities for production of locomotives and other rolling-stock besides a Research, Design and Standards organization to carry out research work in rail technology, standardization and application to attain self-sufficiency. Although Indian Railways has been continuously upgrading its technology but it has been primarily done through technology transfer from abroad.
The spirit of ‘Make in India’ is also the ripe time for new initiatives to build foundation for research in Indian Railways in collaboration with premier academic institutions. Minister for Railways, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu had announced in his Budget speech on 26th February 2015, the setting up of four Centres for Railway Research in select Universities. The MOU with University of Mumbai has already been signed in April 2015. Today the MOUs were signed with Indian Institutes of Technology at Kanpur, Madras and Roorkee, for setting up the Centres of Railway Research, fulfilling the Budget commitment in presence of Minister for Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu and Minister of State for Railways Shri Manoj Sinha. Specific areas of research in railway technology have been assigned to the respective IITs, with provision to identify more areas in the future. Shri Manoj Pande (ED/T&MPP) signed the MOU on behalf of Ministry of Railways while signatories from other side included prof. Amalendu Chandra, Dean Research & Development IIT Kanpur, Prof. Krishnan Balasubramanian, Dean Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research, IIT Madras and Prof. Manoranjan Parida, Dean Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy, IIT Roorkee. Chairman Railway Board Shri A.K. Mital, Member Staff Shri Pradeep Kumar and other senior officers were present on this occasion.
Speaking on the occasion Minister for Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu announced that with the signing of these MOUs, he is confident that these Centres for Railway Research would contribute immensely towards providing solutions for utilization of Railways’ assets in a more cost effective manner. The Government’s vision to see Indian Railways as one of the most progressive organizations in the world and also a net exporter of Railway technology to the world shall soon be realized. Shri Prabhu said that such partnership between railways and academic institutions will not only help railways and IITs but will also be helpful to the nation. He said it will also lead to spin off benefits to society. There is a need to implement new ideas on real time basis.
In his speech Minister of state for Railways Shri Manoj Sinha said that Indian Railways always believes in keeping itself abreast of latest technology. Referring to the problem of train movement during fog season specially in northern India, Shri Manoj Sinha called upon experts to work on a technique to find solution to this problem. He said that the technology to solve this problem should be practical and affordable.
In his address, Chairman Railway Board, Shri A.K. Mital said that signing of the MOUs between Ministry of Railways and IITs at Kanpur, Madras & Roorkee for setting up of Centres for Railway Research is an important step. In order to achieve growth rate of 10% per annum in the coming years, it is necessary that railways make use of the technology advancements in the field of Railway related technology as this will be a major contributor in improving the quality of services. Government has laid high priority on giving boost to this vital sector as the Railways is considered engine of growth.
Speaking on the occasion, Member Staff Railway Board Shri Pradeep Kumar pointed out that subjects on railway technology do not figure in the curriculum of the academic institutions. The natural corollary has thus been the lack of experts on railway technology in the academia. In most of the Institutions, there are either no professors having expertise on the subject or wherever there are a few with some knowledge on rail technology, they are out of sync with the latest technology and development for obvious lack of practical exposure/contact. Moreover the major technological advances are coming from out of India. This initiative of the Indian Railways to involve these premier academic institutions by setting up Centres for Railway Research will remove this gap to some extent.