Railways to add 40 semi-high speed Vande Bharat train sets by 2022
10 September 2019
Indian Railways plans to add more Vande Bharat Express having tasted success with the semi-high speed train, which currently runs between Delhi and Varanasi. Reports citing official sources said the railway ministry is planning to launch 40 such trains by the year 2022.
Tendering process for the new trains ran into a controversy over allegations that the Railway Board started the new tendering process after development of the Vande Bharat train, earlier known as Train 18.
However, after railway minister Piyush Goyal’s intervention, the tendering process and the production of Vande Bharat Express trains have resumed.
Chairman of Railway Board, meanwhile, said the delay in production of Vande Bharat Express is due to change in both technical specifications and the lack of transparency in the tendering process.
Only two rakes of the Vande Bharat Express are currently available for operations and one of them runs between Delhi and Varanasi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 15 February, 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.
As per the timeline, the tender will be out by October for the propulsion system of the trains.
The tendering process requires the railway ministry also invite bids from train manufacturers other than the company that manufactured the Vande Bharat train sets. Also, the ministry said it has 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 2 July 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.
The new guidelines make it mandatory for the production units to follow the specifications of the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO). On 2 August, RDSO issued draft specifications based on comments and suggestions it received. It will finalise the specifications by 15 October.
The tender will be floated on 20 October and by July 2021, the supply of rakes will begin.
The current Vande Bharat train had a bad run after the train hit stray cattle on the tracks the day it was launched in February. The train broke down upon its return from Varanasi because of stray cattle on the tracks.
On 22 February, 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.
The Railways has identified the Bangalore-Hyderabad, Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Kolkata-Patna as possible routes for the semi-high speed trains.