NEW DELHI: The ambitious Train 18 project is likely to get a fresh impetus soon with the government planning to float a fresh global tender for 30 to 40 trains.
This comes amid controversies looming over the decision by the railways to stop production of Train 18 rakes at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai and initiating probe against top nine officials of India’s first semi-high speed train, also known as Vande Bharat Express.
A major reason why the railways had called for production to be stopped at the ICF was because of the heavy rakes, which resulted in higher energy consumption.
“We are going for fresh global tenders of Train 18 now. This is after the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the research arm of the railways, changed the criteria for the trainset,” said a senior railways official.
According to industry experts, major global players that are likely to be a part of the bidding include Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier and Spanish major CAF. Indian companies like Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL), too, may join the fray.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had touted it as an iconic Make-in-India initiative on February 15, launching the first Vande Bharat train from New Delhi to Varanasi.
“If a new company is coming to make the train through a fresh tendering process, it will take an additional two-and-a-half years for the next Train 18 to see light of the day,” said a former railways official.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had informed the Lok Sabha on November 27 that the plan is to produce 160 coaches in 2019-20, 240 coaches in 2020-21 and 240 coaches in 2021-22 at the ICF.
This was after the cancellation of two bulk tenders for propulsion systems of Train 18 earlier this year. A first one for the 43 propulsion systems and a second tender for 37 systems got cancelled due to lack of interest.
Around 35 per cent of the cost of the train is because of its propulsion system. Before the initial launch, the train was certified by RDSO after safety oscillation trials and the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) had also cleared the train for commercial operations.
“When the train had gone through the entire clearance process, a change in criteria will only delay the launch of new trains,” said a person close to the development.
Based on comparative data available with industry sources, the energy consumption of Rajdhani trains was seen at 10,340 kwh for 447 km. For the Shatabdi, it is 8,396 kwh and Train 18 it is 8,983 kwh for the same distance.
However, in terms of energy regeneration, Train 18 has an edge with the coaches regenerating 12.9 per cent of the total energy consumed, compared to 12.3 per cent by the Rajdhanis and 11 per cent by the Shatabdis. Regeneration is the power to send energy back to the grid, when the train is in braking mode.