INDIA ADDA – Perspectives On India

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Dikshu C. Kukreja
Dikshu C. Kukreja
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Sanjay Bhatia
Sanjay Bhatia
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Colin Shah
Colin Shah
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Alok Kirloskar
Alok Kirloskar
Pragati Khare
Pragati Khare
Devang Mody
Devang Mody
Vinay Kalantri
Vinay Kalantri

Indian Railway Innovation Policy: A boost to start-ups

Indian Railway Innovation Policy: A boost to start-ups

India has witnessed exponential growth and is expected to become the third-largest economy in the world by 2030. The Indian Railways play a significant role in boosting and developing various industries along with facilitating the mobility of millions. India has the fourth-largest railway system in the world and the second-largest rail network under one management, with 123,542 km of total tracks, and about 7,300 stations. The Indian Railways (IR) is the largest rail network in Asia and is the world's prominent transportation organization. With the growth in science and technology, Indian railways have evolved and have undergone a lot of changes due to the adoption of advanced technologies over the years. A dedicated 1.2 million plus manpower and large-scale operations provide ample opportunities for innovations to improve efficiency.

The Indian government plans to set up an effective innovation ecosystem involving a free flow of technology and information among various stakeholders to build a resilient system. Minister of Railways, Mr. Ashwini Vaishnaw, launched the Indian Railway Innovation Policy- “Start-ups for Railways” in June 2022. This policy would grant funding to Indian start-ups, MSMEs, entrepreneurs, and innovators for the development of cutting-edge products and cost-effective solutions. The ministry launched an official web portal and has released 11 problem statements to engage start-ups in discovering innovative solutions. The policy seeks to leverage innovative technologies created by new-age Indian entrepreneurs to increase operational effectiveness and safety measures. The ministry aims to address the problems with Indian Railways' quality, dependability, and maintenance. Further, National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) aims to serve 17,900 passengers per day in each direction initially and expects to increase to 92,900 passengers per day in each route by 2053.

A Snapshot of Indian Railways

  • The Indian Railways has achieved 1,223 Route Kilometres (RKMs) of electrification from April to October 2022 as compared to 895 RKMs during the previous FY2021-22. It represents an increase of 36.64% from the prior year. According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) directives on public procurement, more than 95% of the components for electric locomotives must be sourced domestically under the Make in India project. 
  • The national conveyor loaded 1,418.1 MT of freight in 2021–22, which is 15% more than 1,233.24 MT in 2020–21. By 2030, the National Rail Plan seeks to expand the freight traffic share from the present 27% to 45%.
  • 35 Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) Vistadome coaches have been produced as of 30th November 2022. These are technologically superior with features like an anti-climbing arrangement, air suspension with a failure indication system, and provides a panoramic view.
  • The procurement for 44 rakes of Vande Bharat Trains has begun with six of them already running in service over Indian Railways. Moreover, Tejas Express, 2nd privately operated train service renders 4 pairs, operated by the Indian Railways.  Tejas Express is the country’s 2nd train that is operated by the Indian Railway Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). It is a fully air-conditioned, premium superfast train like Rajdhani Express that can go up to 180 km/hr.
  • The first Vertical Lift Railway Sea Bridge in India, which connects the Indian mainland with Rameswaram Island, is currently 84% complete.
  • 535 stations and 572 outlets have successfully been accomplished under the One Station, One Product program.
  • With about 1.3 million employees, Indian Railways is the eighth-biggest employer in the world and the largest employer in India.
  • The "Green Energy Project" of Indian Railways aims to install 200 MW of wind plants and 1,000 MW of solar power plants by 2022–2023. Out of this, a total of 204.82 MW (101.42 MW solar and 103.4MW wind power) of renewable energy have already been installed.
  • The Indian Railways is inviting private players for constructing and operating new bullet train projects in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. The expected projects are going to cost around US$ 121 billion (Rs 10 trillion).
  • Under Make in India, the country’s first ever indigenously manufactured high-speed train - Vande Bharat Express by Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.   
  • Kavach’ is one of the cheapest, Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) certified technologies that have been successfully trailed between Gullaguda – Chitgidda Railway stations in South Central Railway. Moreover, Government intends to bring 34,000 Km of a network under Kavach with 2,000 Km in 2022-23.

Indian Railway Innovation Policy - “Start-ups for Railways”
The Indian Railway Innovation Policy “Start-ups for Railways" was introduced in June 2022 and the national transporter, Indian Railways, has taken a significant step forward in the field of innovation with the involvement of start-ups and other private organizations. With the advancements in digital development, the railway sector has a rare opportunity to not only remain competitive but also expand its share in the overall logistics market. Indian Railway intends to work with entrepreneurs, technology developers, and innovators through Start-ups to obtain affordable, user-friendly, reliable products and solutions for use on the Indian Railways network. This can be achieved by leveraging technological, economic, and operational benefits offered by next-gen innovative and emerging technologies as well as promoting Start-up culture in the nation.

The main objective of the Indian Railway Innovation Policy is:

  • To develop cost-effective, implementable, scalable solutions, functional prototypes, and innovative products to solve IR's quality, reliance, and maintenance-related problems, and to ameliorate those problems through IR's specific use of the generated products and solutions.
  • Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to improve operational efficiency and safety, developed by start-ups and entrepreneurs.
  • For co-creation and co-innovation in the railway sector, it aims to encourage an “Innovation Culture‟ in the country.

Some of the eligible beneficiaries under this policy are any Indian company incorporated under the Companies Act 1956/2013, primarily a Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) as defined in the MSME Act, 2006, individual innovators and R&D institutions, and any partnership firm, company, or LLP incorporated under relevant laws.

Role of Private Players in Indian Railways
The Indian Railways has proposed to involve private companies in the passenger train segment, to operate 150 private trains on hundred routes in the first phase of the initiative. Many top players including L&T Infrastructure Development Projects Limited, Adani Ports, IRB Infrastructure, and GMR group are in the race to operate private passenger trains in the country. The private operator will be given flexibility in class composition and halts as well as the ability to collect market-linked fares. Privatizing train operations would make it easier to introduce cutting-edge technology and rolling stocks that require less maintenance. Moreover, Indian Railways intends to invest more than US$ 6.09 million (Rs 50 crore) annually to bolster innovations and to bring scale and efficiency to the domains of operation, maintenance, and infrastructure creation in the national transporter space.

The ‘Startup for Railways” initiative has untapped the enormous startup ecosystem, with many new players entering the Indian railway market. For instance, India’s first-ever private train between Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) to Shirdi (Maharashtra) is launched and is being operated by a private player, “South Rail Star”, under the Bharat Gaurav scheme. Moreover, other players like:

  • “Railofy”, operates in the online food in trains and railway tickets purchasing market like travel guarantees for waitlisted customers, free cancellation, and more, in line with the IRCTC policy.
  • A crowd-sourced portal called “Railyatri” provides information about rail travel, including the status of the train, the status of reservations, and seat availability.
  • “Confirmtkt” is a travel ticket search engine that offers users a smooth ticket-finding and purchase experience using a proprietary algorithm by assisting the user in estimating the likelihood of receiving a confirmed ticket.
  • “L2M Rail” innovates and creates Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) for Railways by monitoring, managing, and controlling trains to make railways safer and more effective.
  • For its Online Monitoring of Rolling Stock (OMRS) project, Wabtec Corporation reported that the Central Organization for Modernisation of Workshops (COFMOW), Indian Railways, had granted them a contract. The new automated OMRS system, a component of Indian Railways' "SMART Yard" initiative, would increase the availability of the railways fleet of coaches, wagons, and locomotives by identifying and fixing defects and averting in-service breakdowns.

Under the Indian Railway Innovation Policy, the Ministry of Railways shared only 11 problems out of 160 on the Indian Railway Innovation Portal. The policy was launched in June 2022, and it has already received 297 proposals. The maximum number of proposals received was 43 in the broken rail detection system and the least number of proposals received was 4 in Headway Improvement System for the suburban section interoperable with the Indian Railways National ATP System.

Status of Offers Received by Start-ups (As on 11.08.2022)


Problem Statement



Broken Rail Detection System



Development of an online condition Monitoring System for traction Motors of 3-phase Electric Locomotives



App for post-training Revision & self-service refresher courses



Track inspection Technologies for accurate inspection



Development of analytical tools by using Digital data for improving passenger services



Use of Remote Sensing, Geomatics, and GIS for bridge inspection



Rail Stress Monitoring System



Track Cleaning Machines



Light-weight wagon for transporting commodities like salt



Design of superior Elastomeric Pad (EM Pad) for Heavy Haul freight Wagons



Headway Improvement System for Suburban section interoperable with Indian Railways National ATP System





New Technologies Integration in Indian Railways

  • Real-Time Train Information System (RTIS)
    To automatically acquire train movement timing at the stations, the Real Time Train Information System (RTIS), developed in partnership with ISRO, is being installed on the locomotives. RTIS devices installed for 2,700 locomotives. 6,000 additional locomotives spread over 50 loco sheds would be covered as part of Phase-II rollout by using ISRO's satellite communications hub. Currently, the primary use of RTIS includes real-time train status but the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CIRIS) is aiming to use these insights for other uses like unlocking artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to envisage realistic ETA estimation.
  • Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS)
    Like many European countries, India intends to adopt the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Long Term Evolution (LTE), and New Radio as a future-proof technology for railway applications. The Indian Railways plans to incorporate many of the Future Railway Mobile Communications System (FRMCS) capabilities that are global industry standards for rail communications and play a key role in the railway digitization process. International Union of Railways created FRMCS, in collaboration with various rail industry players.
  • Ultrasonic Flaw Detection (USFD)
    The rails and weld in Indian Railways are routinely inspected using ultrasonic testing procedures at the predetermined frequency by the USFD manual by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) to ensure safety. The utilization of ultra-high frequency sound waves for metal component inspection is the foundation of ultrasonic technology. A powerful tool for preventive maintenance, ultrasonic fault detection has gradually become one of the most adaptable, versatile, and sensitive technologies available.
  • Predictive Asset Maintenance System (PAMS)
    The Online Monitoring of Rolling Stock (OMRS) is a way-side inspection system that uses the Wheel Impact Load Detector (WILD) or Wheel Condition Monitor (WCM) and the Acoustic Bearing Detector (ABD) or Rail Bearing Acoustic Monitor (RailBAM) to detect defects in the wheels and bearings of rolling assets. It monitors each piece of train equipment to identify damaged wheels and bearings. For taking corrective action, defect reports are generated, and alarm notifications are conducted in real time. From "Time-Based Maintenance" to "Condition Based Predictive Maintenance," Indian Railways' rolling stock maintenance procedures have undergone a paradigm shift.

The Road Ahead
The Indian rail industry increasingly needs to develop indigenous technology and innovative potential to deliver smart solutions for safety, security, connectivity, seamless operation, and sustainability in order to become Aatmanirbhar Bharat. They are being reinvented, designed, and operated by employing technology that encourages stakeholders into collaborative partnerships, changing the face of railways. The expansion of the current rail infrastructure's capacity and the development of new rail infrastructure bring a variety of opportunities and constraints. The railway infrastructure's capacity is enhanced by increasing technological advancements by switching to electrified routes with advanced signalling. Additionally, the Indian Railways is one of the select few railway systems worldwide that has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Through the participation of a very vast and unexplored start-up ecosystem, the Indian Railway Innovation Policy will bring scale and efficiency in the fields of operation, maintenance, and infrastructure building.