Gaining momentum in India’s growing railway market

2011-09-19 - Indian Railways is upgrading an increasing number of electric locomotives with ABB’s BORDLINE M180, an efficient, low-maintenance converter for auxiliary electrical systems.

Government-owned Indian Railways operates one of the biggest rail networks in the world, carrying 20 million passengers and about 2.5 million tons of freight daily on 64,000 km of track.

Many of Indian Railways' electric locomotives use a mechanical rotary ARNO converter to supply power to auxiliary systems such as air compressors, cooling fans, lighting, heating, air conditioning and emergency battery systems. This mechanical converter, however, has high maintenance requirements, poor voltage regulation and low input power factor and conversion efficiency.

ABB is helping to modernize India’s fleet of locomotives with BORDLINE M180, an insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) converter known for high efficiency and fast on-off switching of electric power.

The M180, which is manufactured especially for Indian Railways in Bangalore, can be installed into new locomotives or retrofitted into older ones. ABB’s auxiliary converter has a rugged design that withstands high ambient temperatures, heavy vibrations and wide voltage variations.

Crucial to India’s economic development

“The modernization and expansion of the national railway network is crucial to India’s continued economic development, and ABB wants to be a partner in realizing that vision,” explains Lalit Tejwani, who is responsible for ABB’s railway business in the Middle East, Africa and India.

“The BORDLINE M180, custom-built in India for Indian Railways, will help us to expand in the key business segment of railway power systems,” says Lalit Tejwani, responsible for ABB’s rail business in India.
ABB initially developed prototype converters, which were installed on Indian locomotives in 2006 and after stringent tests in the field and several rounds of product improvements; the newly designed BORDLINE M180 was approved and launched in 2008. Since then ABB has reached a milestone of 60 units sold in India, and expects a marked increase in sales in 2011 and 2012.

To accommodate the demand for these converters in the existing fleet of approximately 2,000 conventional electric locomotives, and to provide more converters for the 120 new locomotives that are produced annually, ABB invested in a new power electronics manufacturing facility, which was opened in 2009. Today ABB has the capacity to supply 8 to 10 BORDLINE M180 units per month and expects the number of units required to grow to 70 or 80 units per year.

“The key for us at ABB in India is to make the jump from ‘developmental supplier’ to ‘regular supplier,’” emphasizes Tejwani. “This year we should reach the critical threshold of enough units in operation to fulfill performance requirements.”

Growth in the Indian market reflects ABB’s momentum in the global railway business, with a power electronics product portfolio that includes traction and auxiliary converters, battery chargers and integrated compact converters. ABB’s total worldwide sales to the railway industry rose from $200 million in 2004 to $1.3 billion in 2009.

ABB traction technologies power the Indian Railways' WAG9H locomotives that can haul up to 5,000 tons of coal (Courtesy of Sampath Marimuthu, ABB)

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