Research, Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO) has been the repository of knowledge on railway technology, maintenance engineering, standardisation, inter-operability, vendor development, certification and safety. Can, a single organisation-following same set of rules for HR management as its train operating units, do justice with such disparate requirements? It has been realised that, though RDSO has done sterling job of maintenance, reliability, life extension and safety engineering-its focus on cutting edge railway technologies have been usually subordinated to the former. Entire leadership and its governance structure is drawn from the battle hardened pool which is groomed fighting day today train running challenges. Secondment to RDSO happens for few years and thereafter officers return back to the trenches. Enduring priorities have been safety, punctuality, capacity, vendor development in highly resource constrained environment.
Realising this need and keeping in view the constraints faced by RDSO, in the Budget Speech 2016-17, Minister for Railways announced setting up a ‘Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement- SRESTHA’ to drive long term Research and Development in guided transport in India.
After the announcement, Minister for Railways requested Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Chairman “Advisory Group of Experts for Upgradation of Technology and Leveraging Make in India on Railways’’ to prepare a Concept Note on SRESTHA. The Group engaged itself with the matter and through several consultations, field visits and technology reviews prepared the concept note and submitted to the Ministry of Railways. Main highlights of the concept note are:
To make the Indian Railways a Global Leader in Railway Technology by developing advanced R&D capabilities for breakthrough innovations and empowering railways to deliver Quality Service, making it the preferred mode of transportation.
¥ Shall engage itself in building new products for Indian Railways, based on available technology in the world and in newer areas, R&D shall be initiated in synergy with the needs of Indian Railways along with focus on applied research and development.
¥ Shall be the Design Centre for Railways as a ‘System of Systems’ along with being a Technology Incubation &Commercialisation Centre and shall assist to build Design Centres at Production Units of Indian Railways and other Centres of Excellence in Academic Institutions.
¥ Aims to transform India from a net technology importer to its exporter, in ten years and work towards a modal ‘Shift to Rail’ in India. SRESTHA shall be structured across multi-disciplinary streams covering all aspects of guided transportation.
Implementation Plan for Setting up of SRESTHA :
SRESTHA needs to break away from the routine and must implement the lessons in slipping on rail-tech leadership despite the clear intent. Thus, from its governance structure, accountability, human resource policies to selection of projects, partners and implementation, new rules of engagement are needed. Detailed Project Report (DPR) is under preparation for incubating and setting up SRESTHA. The DPR will include all aspects of establishment and functioning of SRESTHA, including its R&D centres and Programs for Rolling Stock Design & Dynamics, Track, Bridges & Structures, Sensors, Instrumentation & Control, Signalling & Telecommunications, Operations & Asset Management, Geo-technical Engineering, Metallurgy & Material Science, Engines & Fuels, Testing Capability for High Speed, Robotics, Urban Transport Technologies & Logistics etc.
Under the stewardship and mentoring of Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Member NITI Aayog, the DPR is being prepared by a newly created Project Management Unit (PMU) which is currently headquartered at the Rail Coach Factory, Rae Bareli’s Lucknow Camp Office. Upon the acceptance of the DPR the new organisation would take shape. It is targeted that by next fiscal, work on the constitution of SRESTHA would begin.