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Wabtec Corporation, one of the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) beneficiaries in the railways sector, is planning to use the country as a manufacturing hub for exports of diesel locomotives, electric components, and a host of other products.

In an interview with Business Standard , Pascal Schweitzer, the company’s group president of freight global services, said: “We are intending to export from India to the rest of the world, and not just limited to locomotives. We have a broad offering dedicated to the rail industry. As a global company, we want to leverage our footprint globally.” The global rail major, which has a diesel locomotive manufacturing unit in Bihar’s Marhowra and has a third of its global engineering team based in India, is looking at opportunities in components, digital solutions, track maintenance, and electrification across countries, and sees its Indian units as avital resource to that end.

“We are also a player on the electric side. We supply a lot of components for electric locomotives. We intend to participate more in this (segment). We want to be a global leader across transit and freight, components, and digital solutions. We also want to lead the decarbonisation of rail, which is why we are investing significant resources in battery locomotives and development of hydrogen and fuel cell locomotives. We are working to enable the use of renewable fuels and biofuels on diesel locomotives,” Schweitzer said.

The company is offering and developing avariety of green solutions in view of the enthusiasm with which countries have taken up the sustainability challenge. On the scope of solutions offered to Indian Railways, Wabtec doesn’t simply want to sell products when it comes to climate change. “We want to have a strategic discussion with our customers on how they can leverage our services in their efforts to lower carbon emissions." Recently, the railways ministry completed electrification of 50,000 route kilometres (rkm), with a push to complete the process of the rail network.

With the increased infrastructure spending capability on account of budgetary allocation of Indian Railways and tenders worth ₹ 1 trillion in the pipeline for the national transporter, Wabtec is eyeing expansion opportunities in India. “We have a large number of discussions going on with Indian Railways around locomotives, locomotive services, digital solutions, and track maintenance.” The freight services head did not get into details on specific tenders.

“We are working on a lot of tenders right now and also looking at a number of expansion opportunities through our own organic development, investing in research and development and leveraging our engineering team.” He said India’s push for dedicated freight corridors presents a substantial opportunity for Wabtec in track maintenance, as the company recently acquired Nordco, which specialises in maintenance of rail space.

The increased scope for Wabtec’s growth comes on the back of India’s ambitious targets under the National Rail Plan, under which the central government aims to increase the modal freight share of railways to 45 per cent from its current levels of 26-27 per cent.

“I am very impressed by the bounce back of freight traffic (since the onset of Covid19). We have a very impressive traffic growth for Indian Railways. From all the discussions, the outlook and ambition for the coming decade in terms of growth, shifting volume from road to rail, and velocity increase through the dedicated freight corridors is very clear.” On Tuesday, Indian Railways crossed the significant mark of 1400 million tonne (mt) of freight loading, as it eyes an ambitious target of 2024 mt of annual freight volume by the year 2024.

Wabtec has a commitment to deliver 1,000 diesel locomotives to Indian Railways, of which it has already delivered 400, as of last week. The company has two locomotive maintenance sheds in Roza, Uttar Pradesh, and Gandhidham, Gujarat, along with several other units across the country.

In January, it acquired Masu’s railway friction business for $34 million, in a bid to strengthen its brake supply wing. The company currently supplies brake systems for Indian locomotives and LHB coaches.

“We are intending to export from India to the rest of the world, and not just limited to locomotives. We have a broad offering dedicated to the rail industry. As a global company, we want to leverage our footprint globally”