Indian Railways to build 44 Vande Bharat Trains in next 3 Years

File Pic: Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi flagging off the first Semi High Speed Train Vande Bharat Express, at New Delhi Railway Station on February 15, 2019.

NEW DELHI: Amid speculation that the 44 Vande Bharat trains scheduled to hit the tracks by 2022 will be delayed, the Indian Railways on Tuesday said the train sets will now be manufactured by not one but three Indian Railway manufacturing units and will be on the rail network within the next three years.

Railway Board Chairman V.K.Yadav on Tuesday said the trains will be simultaneously manufactured in three rail units – the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareilly and the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.

“A decision was taken some months back that the three manufacturing units of the Railways will manufacture these trains thereby reducing the time taken to roll them out by one-third. The 44 trains will start running in the next two to three years. Once the tender is finalised a definite timeline will be made available,” Mr Yadav said.

In a letter dated July 14, the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) which manufactured the first two Vande Bharat trains informed the Railway Board that it would take 28 months to introduce the prototype rakes into commercial service and an additional six months to start the series production, and subsequently 78 months to complete the manufacture of 44 trains, according to its estimates.

Mr Yadav, however, said these were internal communications within the Railways and since the three units are going to manufacture the rakes, the roll out would be faster.

The production of the Vande Bharat train sets or Train 18 has been mired in controversy even as the first one was rolled out by ICF in record 18 months. It was built at a cost of approximately Rs 100 crore and has been providing seamless service on two routes: Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra.

Recently, Chinese state-owned rolling stock major CRRC Corporation emerged as the only foreign player to bid for the Railways’ global tender for its ambitious semi-high speed Train 18 project.

The bid from CRRC, which has entered into a joint venture with a Gurugram-based company to place its bid under the name CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Limited, is likely to be scrapped.

It is one of the six contenders for the tender for procuring propulsion systems or electric traction kits for 44 trains – to be branded as Vande Bharat Express or Train 18.

Officials said going by the cost of manufacturing the first Train 18 which was launched last year – Rs 100 crore, of which Rs 35 crore was for the propulsion system alone – the present tender for 44 such kits would be worth over Rs 1,500 crore.

This tender was floated on December 22, 2019, by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, and was opened on July 11. It is the third such tender floated for these trains.

Vande Bharat Express, also known as Train 18, is an Indian semi-high speed intercity electric multiple unit. It was designed and built by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Chennai under the Indian government’s Make in India initiative over a span of 18 months. The unit cost of the first rake was given as ₹1 billion (US$14 million), though the unit cost is expected to go down with subsequent production. At the original price, it is estimated to be 40% cheaper than a similar train imported from European Makers. The train was launched on 15 February 2019, by which date a second unit will have been produced and readied for service. The service was named ‘Vande Bharat Express’ on 27 January 2019.

Design and Development

Train 18’s exterior appearance consists of aerodynamic narrowing at each ends of the train. It has a driver coach at each end of the train, allowing for faster turnaround at each end of the line. The train has 16 passenger cars, with a seating capacity of 1,128 passengers. Two of the center compartments are first class compartments that seat 52 each, with the rest being coach compartments seating 78 each.

The train’s seats, braking system, doors, and transformers are the only elements of the train to be outsourced, with plans to make them domestically on the production of the next unit. Train 18 employs a regenerative braking system.

Another unit is planned for production over the year 2020, along with four more units in 2021, for a total of six. The Railway Board has requested that ICF complete two of the new units by May 2019. Two of those units will incorporate sleeper cars into the layout. “As per the production programme issued by the Railway Board, this includes the second train coming out after the elections and third by October this year. After October, ICF will make one train every alternate month till March 2020 and one rake every month from April 2020.”According to the Ministry of Railways earlier this year, Modern Coach Factory (MCF), Raebareli which has been a shining example of ‘Make in India’, will also manufacture more Vande Bharat Express train sets in the coming months.

Based on Vande Bharat Express, Train 19 was a proposed higher-speed, long distance electric multiple unit, manufactured by ICF. It was supposed to have sleeper coaches instead of seats, unlike Train 18.

Indian Railways and ICF are also planning the development of Train 20, another semi-high speed train that will replace the Rajdhani Express. The line is supposed to be unveiled in 2020.

Indian Railways plans to order 40 train sets of Train 18 by 2022 with modified cabin crash guard made out of aluminium.