Centre sets up three-member panel to resolve dispute between SAIL, Railways

The government has set up a three-member committee to resolve a dispute between the Indian Railways and state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) over issues such as the quantity and supply of high-quality steel rails. The panel will give its recommendations during this quarter. The steel major has expressed confidence in its ability to provide 1.3-million tonne rails to the Railways during the current financial year (FY20), an increase of 37 per cent over the previous year. During the last financial year, SAIL supplied around 985,000 tonnes of rail worth Rs 5,900 crore.

Doubts over the quality of rails supplied by SAIL arose after a recent study conducted by the Transportation Technology Transfer (TTT) team from the University of Illinois said the tensile strength of the existing track was “not adequate” for 25-tonne axle load operations. This, along with an alleged shortage of supply, was reportedly causing concerns for the Railways in going ahead with its massive infrastructure expansion plans, including track renewal and setting up of new lines, along with “Mission 25 Tonne”.

“After intervention from the government, a three-member committee was set up to find a solution to the issues,” said a government source.

A SAIL official did not comment on the dispute, but said the rails were supplied after stringent inspection by RITES, a Railways-appointed third-party inspecting agency, and there have not been any instances of rejection in the past years. It also claims to be fulfilling all the quality parameters of the Rail Manual issued by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) of the Railways.

“In 2019-20, SAIL fulfilled almost 98 per cent of the commitment made to the Railways with the highest-ever production of 985,000 tonne of UTS-90 rails and this year we will be meeting the entire committed quantity,” the SAIL official said.

On Mission 25 Tonne, the company said SAIL’s rails are already being used on a stretch of around 90 km in Bhilai-Dalli Rajhara mines track which carry wagons with 25-tonne axle load. “Even Vande Bharat Express, with maximum operating speed of 150 kmph, runs on SAIL rails,” he added.

The battle between SAIL and the Railways over the quality got intensified after a finding by SAIL’S research wing, Research and Development Centre for Iron & Steel (RDCIS), said the firm’s rails have the capability to achieve the strength requirement for running 25-tonne axle load and has gone beyond the yield strength requirement for about 90 per cent of the rails produced by it.

SAIL and the RDSO are also working on thick web asymmetrical rails, copper-molybdenum rails and high-strength vanadium alloyed rails to meet the requirements of the Railways. 

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