44 Vande Bharat trains will be ready by 2027, not by 2022

ICF’s Chief Planning Engineer in his letter dated July 14 to the Director Mechanical Engineering (Production Unit) said, the prototype of the train sets will take at least 28 months (two years and four months) to manufacture the rakes for commercial service, from the date of the finalisation of the tender for the propulsion system.

By Anand Singh

Even as the Indian Railways has claimed to complete the production of 44 Vande Bharat Express train sets or Train 18 train sets by 2021-22, an internal assessment by the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) has said that it could be completed in six and half years or not before the year 2027.

ICF’s Chief Planning Engineer in his letter dated July 14 to the Director Mechanical Engineering (Production Unit) said, the prototype of the train sets will take at least 28 months (two years and four months) to manufacture the rakes for commercial service, from the date of the finalisation of the tender for the propulsion system.

A copy of the letter has been accessed by IANS.

The ICF’s Planning Engineer also claimed that after the manufacturing of the prototype of the train set, it will take another six months to do the testing. The letter further stated that the production of the Vande Bharat rakes will then commence and it will be able to deliver one rake consisting of 16 coaches every months.

For 44 rakes, the ICF will take another three and half years to manufacture the 44 train sets. And this puts the estimated date for the rollout of all these train sets in December 2027.

An ICF official requesting anonymity told IANS that there is “no clear picture” as of now when we will be in a condition to deliver the Vande Bharat rakes. He said that work can only start after the tender finalisation. “First, tender has to be finalised, and only after that there will be specific date for the supplying of the Vande Bharat rakes,” he said.

“Condition will apply only after the completion of the tender process,” he added.

The Chennai-based ICF has invited bids for procurement of electric traction kits for Train 18, the country’s first self-propelled train without locomotives.

Train 18 was manufactured by ICF, which is owned by the Indian Railways, with over 80 per cent indigenous materials and was rolled out in October 2018 amidst much fanfare.

The train was later re-christened as Vande Bharat express and was introduced between New Delhi and Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, in February last year. In October last year, the second Vande Bharat Express train was introduced between New Delhi and Katra.

In November 2019, the railway board gave a go-ahead to ICF to resume manufacturing of the semi high-speed trains. Subsequently, the ICF had called for bids for procuring electric traction kits for 44 train sets. Each set of trains has got 16 coaches.

Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav earlier this month in a press conference said that six companies participated in the tender process for the Vande Bharat trains. Indian Railways had in December last year planned to complete the production of 44 more new rakes on India’s 75th Independence day. All the coaches of Vande Bharat Express have a stainless steel car body equipped with automatic doors with sliding footsteps, onboard computers for train control and remote monitoring. The coaches also have a GPS-based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot WiFi and comfortable seating arrangements.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

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