The story behind Train 18: It had to run over tough opposition
The plan to build Train 18, touted as the country’s fastest train, did not come easy.
Sudhanshu Mani, former general manager of Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai that designed and built Train 18, said he conceived the idea in 1990 in the initial years of his innings with the Railways.
“In 1981 I joined Railways as assistant mechanical engineer. Over the years I saw how Railways in countries like Japan, China, Europe etc have developed their rail system by adopting engineless trains. This gave me an idea to work on my project of having our own engineless train. But I waited for the right time, which came in 2016 when I was appointed as GM at ICF, and then I began working on the idea that I conceived more than 20 years back,” said Mani.
He continued: “Taking my idea forward was not easy. As usual, the idea of manufacturing of an engineless train drew a lot of criticism. Officials objected to the idea and suggested that the technology could be hired from the countries that already have engineless trains. But I stuck to my point that I wanted to manufacture the engineless train here, with all intellectual property rights owned by India and not by any other country.”
It was in 2016 that the coach factory approach the ministry with the idea, after which the nod was granted in April 2017.
Barring the train’s aircraft seats, which are from Spain and China, rest of the train is made in India.
“After getting nod from the Railways, the challenge before us was to meet the expectations. But building a train from a scratch was not an easy task. We began manufacturing the coaches at the coach factory itself. But there were two areas — bogie design and interiors, in which we didn’t have much expertise, hence we hired two consultants from Poland and France to assist us. But we made sure that we held the right of intellectual property,” Mani said.
“We also found that in India there is not a single manufacturer who can build seats that are used in aircrafts. So the seats of the train were bought from Spain and China. And rest of the train is made, designed and manufactured in India itself,” he said.
Of the total cost incurred in building the train, he said 20 per cent was for the imported goods. The total cost was around Rs 97 crore, Rs 3 crore less than the cost that was fixed. He said the cost of one similar engineless imported train is around 180 crore.
LUCKNOW’S CHARM BROUGHT HIM BACK
It was perhaps the charm of his own city that brought him back. “Nothing could match Shaam-e-Awadh and the rich culture of the city. Perhaps it’s the lone reason that brought me back to my hometown, where I was born and brought up,” he said.
Mani completed his initial schooling from St Francis and finished his class 12 from Colvin Taluqdars’ College, after which he moved to Roorkee Engineering College. In 1975, he went for the special class railway apprentice programme at Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Jamalpur and in 1981 got a job inducted in the railways. After his retirement he has decided to settled here.
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