40 new Vande Bharat Express trains by 2022
India will have 40 new Vande Bharat Express trains by 2022 as the Indian Railways has finalised the timeline for manufacturing them again and started a tendering process for the purpose, according to officials aware of the development.
The officials said the production was stopped over allegations of favouritism and lack of transparency, earlier this year. The railway board has now started the tendering process for resuming the manufacturing after railway minister Piyush Goyal’s intervention, the officials added.
As per the timeline, a tender will be out by October for the propulsion system of the trains.
Two rakes of Vande Bharat Express are currently available for operations and one of them runs between Delhi and Varanasi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 15 launched the New Delhi-Varanasi Vande Bharat Express or Train 18, India’s first locally built semi high-speed train that can run up to a maximum speed of 160 km/hour.
A railway official said they are going for the more transparent procedure as they received over two dozen complaints about favouritism where tenders were prepared to benefit one company in the manufacturing of the first two rakes. “We want to give enough time to companies and one quoting the minimum amount will get the tender. We are looking for the delivery by mid-2022 and by the end of that year, 40 more Vande Bharat Express trains should be up and running,” he said.
Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory, which manufactured the first two rakes, scrapped all tenders in June for a third one amid the controversy.
Goyal met representatives of manufacturers on July 2 and promised a level playing field to all of them in a transparent manner, the officials said.
“Based on the industry’s feedback, the railways agreed to give reasonable time for submission of bids. The manufacturers have been told that Make in India policy has to be followed and some import could be permitted provided that the manufacturing units must be set up in India eventually,” said another railway official, quoting the minutes of the meeting. HT has a copy of the minutes.
The new guidelines make it mandatory for the production units to follow the specifications of the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO). On August 22, RDSO issued draft specifications based on comments and suggestions it received. It will finalise the specifications by October 15.
The tender will be floated on October 20 and by July 2021, the supply of rakes will begin.
A third railway official admitted that there was a problem with the first train. He added that the entire process will begin from scratch to overcome that. On the day of its launch in February, the train broke down upon its return from Varanasi because of stray cattle on the tracks.
On February 22, the train’s aerodynamic nose, which is made of steel with a fibre cover, was damaged severely and had to be replaced after a bull hit it. A day later, the driver’s windscreen and windows of some coaches were damaged after being hit by flying ballast.
Indian Railways plans to introduce more Vande Bharat Express trains and has identified the Bangalore-Hyderabad, Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Kolkata-Patna as possible routes.