Coach Factory at Sonia’s constituency proving to be White Elephant for Railways

LUCKNOW: The.2500 Crore Rail Coach Factory in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Rae Bareli is proving to be a white elephant for railways. Even after three years of production, the factory has only two shells (the empty coach without the bogey and interiors) to call its own.

Railway ministry has sanctioned Rs.650 crore to the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) in 2013-14. But, so far the factory has rolled out only two shells and 25 assembled coaches. There has been no production since June when 12-odd coaches were assembled.

The main reason cited for limping production is Rail Coach Factory, Kapoorthala, decision to back off from its commitment to supply raw material to Rae Bareli factory in the initial years. “The target was to produce 150 coaches this year but not more than 25 coaches have been rolled out,” said sources.

Even after three years, the factory has not become self-reliant in procuring raw material and rolling out coaches, entirely manufactured on its premises. “RCF Kapoorthala says it’s time Rae Bareli factory starts its own production. They have to float tenders to procure raw material to us as well,” added sources. But, Rae Bareli factory is still lagging behind despite several assurances from the railway ministry to fast-track the project.

The project has also been hit by split management. The factory is managed through three offices headquarters at Delhi, local office in Lucknow and the small set up at Lalganj in Rae Bareli.

The factory was set up to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of coaches. It was to roll out 1,000 LHB coaches every year. But major chunk of the factory’s budget sanctioned by railway ministry goes in paying salary to its 40 officers and about 1,100 staff.

Besides, Rs 12 to 13 lakh extra is spent on the transportation of raw material like seats, wheels, paints, bathroom fittings and other accessories during every consignment. “The raw material is to be provided as and when required. However, for past two months we are not getting it,” said sources.

Rae Bareli factory has to manufacture only LHB coaches. Railways incurs about Rs 2.73 crore in manufacturing a single AC-3 tier LHB coach and Rs 2.63 crore for an AC-2 tier LHB coach. LHB is a light weight coach based on German technology that improves the speed of a train. It is the latest requirement of Indian Railway.

Three years after it started production, only 113-odd coaches have been assembled at Rae Braeli. The factory has not made a single coach indigenously so far. It rolled out 18 coaches in 2011-12 and 70 in 2012-13.

Initially, the project was delayed due to political apathy as the railway ministry was headed by Mamata Banerjee. The factory was not given more than Rs 100 crore as annual budget then, said sources. The factory has failed to meet its production deadline several times after inauguration in 2007.

Things improved when Pawan Bansal took over as the railway minister. A big sum was sanctioned to the factory in this year’s rail budget.

The factory’s administrative block has to be shifted to Rae Bareli by next month. But, that seems unlikely given the sluggish pace of work.

What ails Rae Bareli rail coach factory?
* Factory has failed to get self-reliant over the past three years
* RCF Kapoorthala is showing disinterest in providing raw material
* Factory is managed through three offices in Delhi, Lucknow and Rae Bareli
* Everyday management of the factory is getting affected due to split offices
* Ancillary units have not started
* 1000-strong staff are underemployed at factory
* Major portion of annual budget of the factory goes in paying salaries