Exclusive interview with Gunjan Vakharia, Head-Mobility Business, Siemens Limited

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2023-05-05 07:15:00 Viewer: 5,056 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Exclusive interview with Gunjan Vakharia, Head-Mobility Business, Siemens Limited

Gunjan Vakharia is Head of Mobility Business of Siemens Limited in India. Gunjan possess over 15 years of strategic & operational leadership experience in automation, digitalization of Mobility (Railways, Automobiles) and Healthcare sectors.

In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News, he frankly talked on development of urban transportation sectors and role of Siemens Mobility in India.

First, kindly share with our readers about your role and responsibility with Siemens Mobility?

I am leading the Mobility Business for India at Siemens Limited. We are not only in the business of building Railways but also building a nation with an aim to mobilize India by enabling cost effective, comfortable, and sustainable rail transport for social wellbeing and economic development.

One of our key priorities is to bring in cutting edge and proven global technology innovations to make rail transportation in India more sustainable and cost-effective.

Siemens Mobility India’s aim is to provide intelligent and efficient technologies and solutions for passenger and freight transportation covering the entire gamut of Rail infrastructure and Metro-Rail solutions. In the years to come we strive to constantly innovate our portfolio in the core areas of rolling stock, rail automation and electrification, turnkey systems as well as related services. With digitalization, we are enabling mobility operators to make infrastructure intelligent and sustainable by enhancing system availability, maximizing network capacity, optimizing customer experience, and reducing life cycle cost.

How do you see the developments in urban transport and mobility sectors in India?  Where do you see your company placed in this phase of mobility transformation?

There are two aspects to the mobility transformation in India. It is common knowledge that rail is the most economical mode of transportation for both passengers and freight. As the Indian economy gallops towards the $5 trillion target in 2029-30, it is imperative that the share of rail in freight movement increases from the current 27 percent to above 45 percent.

The second aspect is that the overall GDP growth will be reflected in growing urbanization. As per Government of India estimates, India’s urban population will cross 60 crore by 2030 and over 50 percent of the population will be living in urban areas by 2050. This is staggering and infrastructure development is being undertaken at speed and scale. The most sustainable and cost-effective approach would be mass rapid transport systems, metros, and integrated mobility.

Siemens has been recently awarded a high value e-locomotive contract for Indian Railways. How is this contract more significant for Siemens Mobility?

Siemens Limited has received an order for 1,200 locomotives of 9,000 horsepower (HP) from Indian Railways. This is the single largest locomotive order in the history of Siemens Mobility and single largest order in the history of Siemens India. As part of the contract, Siemens will design, manufacture, commission and test the locomotives. Deliveries are planned over an eleven-year period, and the contract includes 35 years of full-service maintenance.

The contract has a very high significance as it proves that we can make in India for India and for the world. For us, the contract signifies wheels of progress – the Indian Railways carries more than 1.4-billion tonnes of freight traffic every year over an extensive network of 68,000-km. The 9000 HP locomotives will contribute in a major way to the Indian Railways achieving the goals set in National Rail Plan. It will help India achieve its ambitious goal of creating the world’s largest green rail network, as our locomotives will save more than 800 million tons of CO2 emissions over their lifecycle.

How is the recent 9000 HP project a step further in Indian Railways’ journey to become future-ready? How much investment Siemens will make to deliver this project timely?

In the Railways’ strategy to upgrade its rolling stock, one of the key initiatives is to migrate from the present 6000 HP locomotives to the new generation of eco-friendly, highly efficient 9000 HP freight locomotives.

As an apt technology partner of Indian Railways, Siemens’ philosophy is aligned with that of Indian Railways, committed to the cause of nation building by enabling cost effective, comfortable and sustainable rail transport for social well-being and economic development. This sense of purpose stands on the foundation of the three pillars of planet (greener railways for sustainable mobility), people (punctual, safer and comfortable train runs connecting people and hauling freight) and performance (optimised rail network throughput and higher asset availability for profitable growth).

The 9000HP locomotives, equipped with state-of-the-art IGBT-based propulsion technology, will provide savings in energy consumption due to regenerative braking technology. The locomotives will combine sustained cost-effective operation with low environmental impact and resource consumption.

This high horsepower locomotive will be the future workhorse for freight operation on Indian Railways. Planned for use primarily on Western DFC and on graded sections of Railways for hauling container freight trains in double stack configuration of 4500 Tonnes at 75 kmph at 1 in 200 gradient, these locomotives will improve the average speed of trains to around 50-60 kmph over the existing 20-25 kmph. The 9000HP locomotives will have a maximum speed of 120kmph. The quantum jump in the operating parameters will lead to increase in the throughput and also enhance line capacity. Siemens will also ensure 95% availability and 150,000-km of trouble-free operation of locomotives as guaranteed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The 9000HP locomotives, which will be integral to the efficient operation of the DFCs, are at the core of the Railways’ climate goals. With initiatives like 100% electrification, deployment of sustainable technologies and adoption of sustainable practices, the Railways will be key contributors to the country’s net-zero transition. Driving this climate goal journey, will be the new generation of state-of-art, highly efficient and eco-friendly 9000HP locomotives that will combine environmental protection with extreme cost-effectiveness using green technologies to set new standards in freight transport.

How is Siemens taking a step ahead in the electrification of railways?

Siemens has been supporting the railways’ efforts towards 100 percent electrification. Siemens is aiming at future-proofing rail transportation in India through digitalization solutions. Our aim is to be a key partner in India’s quest for safer, greener & smarter railways, making in India for India and the world. The Mobility business has been supporting the Indian Railways’ vision of complete electrification, enhanced haulage capability and building high-technology systems in line with the Make in India initiative. We take great pride in partnering Indian Railways and Metro operators in landmark projects like ‘Vande Bharat’, Electrification & Signaling projects for Mainline and Metros, providing advanced digital solutions and our latest offering the 9000 HP electric locomotives.

Where does Siemens Mobility stand on net-zero carbon emissions and how does it align with this mission?

Siemens is very much on track to achieve our goals of net zero carbon emissions in our own operations as well as supporting our customers meet their carbon footprint targets. Siemens understands the urgency of the situation and has been taking meaningful action to reduce our carbon emissions, operationalizing our commitments. Sustainability is a key part of our strategy. It is deeply embedded in our business activities, investment decision-making and governance. This commitment is reflected in our DEGREE framework, a 360-degree view of Siemens’ ESG priorities. DEGREE is based on six fields of action with clear priorities. It stands for Decarbonization, Ethics, Governance, Resource Efficiency, Equity and Employability. With digitalization, Siemens Mobility is enabling mobility operators to make infrastructure intelligent and sustainable by enhancing system availability, maximizing network capacity, optimizing customer experience, and reducing life cycle costs.

What are the major hurdles you see in India when it comes to major urban infrastructure projects compared to other countries? What are the lessons to be learned?

One of the biggest challenges is the rapid growth of urbanization itself together with ensuring that the cities in India develop sustainably and equitably with the help of technology and data. With intelligent urban development strategies that make smart cities real, India can play a lead role in implementing solutions that meet the challenge of the urban future. Siemens is working closely with the various metro operators and Indian Railways to deliver a triple win for the citizens of India, the Indian Railways and the Government of India.

What are your expectations from FY 2023-24 and brief us about your growth agenda planned ahead?

The Ministry of Railways has been driving upgradation of technology and modernization of infrastructure (track, signaling and telecommunication). With the National Rail Plan 2030 setting the blueprint, investments are expected to further boost development of infrastructure and products under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. Innovation through research, design, manufacturing and digitalization will continue to be key drivers in transformation of Indian Railways. We are working closely with our customers to deliver cost-efficient, green transportation enhanced with technologies for safer and reliable mobility with maximum availability.

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