| Rails race
Calcutta, Dec. 25: Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), the only profit-making constituent of the Steel Authority of India (SAIL), has lined up a Rs 320-crore long rail and rail welding project to take on the competition from the Jindals.
This will be the first major project by any of the SAIL constituents during the current fiscal.
The technology and equipment for the project are being sourced from Austria, Germany and Coras of the UK, who are the leading consultants for rail-making. SAIL’s inhouse consultant, Centre for Engineering and Technology (CET), has been assigned to implement the project.
According to a senior SAIL executive, the project will help Bhilai maintain its status as the solitary supplier of rails to the Indian Railways.
“As of now, there is no other supplier and we catered to the entire demand of the Indian Railways. Now with the Jindals getting ready with their long rail products, we have decided to refurbish our products according to the Railways’ needs,” he said.
BSP has been a profit-making plant from the very beginning, courtesy its rail production. And the public sector giant does not want to give up this supremacy to other producers.
Recently, the Railways placed an additional order for 40,000 tonnes of rails with BSP.
“The project envisages supplying 240 metre long rails in the 52 kg class and 260 metre long rails in the 60 kg class against the present 26 metre length rails that the plant produces,” he said.
Rails contributed 75 per cent of BSP’s net profit of Rs 477 crore in 2001-02.
Any market loss, therefore, would make a severe impact on the bottomline of the steel plant, which is the only silver lining for the loss making SAIL.
A SAIL director said that although work would start next fiscal, the board of directors has already cleared the proposal.
“The company is short on finances due to severe losses over the last few years and an unprecedented slump in the steel market. But if we don’t invest in the rail project, the biggest profit making area will be lost to others,” he said.
Since its commissioning in 1960, BSP’s Rail & Structural Mill has supplied around 9.89 million tonnes or 2 lakh kilometres of tracks to the Indian Railways, the director added.