PSC sleeper refers to steel reinforced concrete sleeper, commonly used on railway tracks. Besides Indian Railways, power plants, refineries and cement plants also use sleepers for their rail tracks. Demand driver
Indian Railways has a network of over 65,000 kilometers encompassing length and breadth of the country. The growing population and increasing economic activity has resulted in over-utilization of its existing network. So much so that the trunk routes of the railways comprising merely 16% of the network carry about 50 percent of the work load. The Indian railways has been routinely upgrading its network (see Table 1), however the capacity upgradation has been far below the actual requirements and the network continues to remain congested.
The pace of railway infrastructure upgradation has picked up over the past one year, driven by the government’s initiatives to improve quality and safety of Indian railways. The Railways has committed to building 7 kms of infrastructure per day in 2016-17, which will increase to 13 Kms per day in 2017-18 and 19 kms per day in 2018-19. Railways have identified following priority projects (See table 2) to be taken up in the medium term.
In addition to these, Indian Railways has also proposed to create a high speed corridor network of around 10,000 kilometers. In light of the above mentioned plans, the railways are likely to develop at least 5000-8000 kilometers of rail network per year, almost 30-40% more than in the past. Assuming that per kilomer of rail would need 1600 sleepers, these plans are likely to result in an annual demand of about 1.3 crore of sleepers.
The sleeper industry is dominated by a few players who are present across the country. The current capacity of the industry is around 1 crore sleepers per annum. More details on the players are provided below.
Given the expected increase in demand by 30% to 40%, there seems to be enough room for new capacities to come up. However, one needs to analyze the regional demand and supply balance carefully.
Govt approvals and Budget
Setting up a railway sleeper unit would require approvals from Railway RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organization) as well as the Zonal Railway office.
The process of manufacturing the PSC entails strengthening of concrete, casting it into pre-defined mould and curing it. There are two popular technologies: Long line and Short bench manufacturing, with short bench manufacturing being more popular in India.
The budget requirements for a capacity of 3-4 lakh sleepers per annum could be upwards of Rs. 15 crore. Further, one needs to consider the cost of the land, the sleeper plant would need to be located in the vicinity of a railway station for the ease of transport of sleepers.
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