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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Budget 2022-Railways: Govt plans to get 400 new, lighter, safer Vande Bharat trains

With an eye on farmers, the rail sector will also develop ‘One Station One Product’ which will leverage the local produce carried on the railways, Sitharaman said.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: February 1, 2022 10:25:50 pm
The 400 new Vande Bharat trainsets are going to be made of light-weight aluminium, as opposed to steel, marking a departure from India’s traditional choice of metal for making its coaches, railway sources said. (File photo)

Taking a decisive step towards engine-less propulsion system for passenger trains in future, India has decided to manufacture 400 new, more efficient Vande Bharat trains in the next three years, according to announcements by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Union Budget on Tuesday.

The 400 will be in addition to 102 Vande Bharat trains already in the pipeline, sources said.

With an eye on farmers, the Railways will also develop “One Station One Product”, which will leverage local produce carried on trains, Sitharaman said. Bringing out new products, the Railways will also roll out postal railways for parcels, giving a thrust to a new business area.

“400 new-generation Vande Bharat trains with better efficiency to be brought in during the next 3 years; 100 PM Gati Shakti Cargo terminals to be developed during next 3 years and implementation of innovative ways for building metro systems,” Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha.

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The highlight of her announcement, part of a larger, multi-modal plan for infrastructure development under the umbrella of PM Gati Shakti, is the new Vande Bharat trains.

The 400 trains will mostly be made of light-weight aluminum, as opposed to steel, marking a departure from India’s traditional choice of metal for making its coaches, sources said. Officially, the Railways has kept mum on it.

The paperwork for aluminum coaches had already been started before the Budget, with the top officers of the Railway Board working out benefits over the current steel coaches.

Being made of aluminum, each train set is around 50 tons lighter, consuming much less energy than their counterparts made of steel. The cost of each train set is around Rs 25 crore more than current ones, which cost around Rs 106 crore per set of 16 coaches.

But sources said that by factoring in inflation and other associated costs of the current steel-made Vande Bharat sets, the aluminum ones come out to be marginally higher, whereas the money saved by way of less energy consumed is much higher, translating into a higher revenue potential for Railways, officials said.

Vande Bharat is the name given to India’s own semi-high speed train set, a collection of 16 coaches, self-propelled, and do not require an engine to haul them. This is called distributed traction power, which is increasingly becoming the norm the world over, as opposed to locomotive-hauled trains.[object HTMLSpanElement]coaches.

“Any new technology we bring in should be viewed from the perspective of passenger… reduced noise levels, reduced vibration, better safety and experience. That kind of Vande Bharat we will bring,” Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the media after the Budget presentation.

“The first version of Vande Bharat is already running,” he said. “Version 2 will be (in) production by August-September this year. The target given today will be next and it will be an upgrade. Like mobile phones come with new and better versions, this technology will also get better with each version.”

This year, the Finance Ministry has laid out capital investment worth Rs 2.45 lakh crore from Railways, in which around Rs 1.08 lakh crore will be raised through Extra Budgetary Resources. Last year, Railways had set out a capital expenditure target of Rs 2.15 lakh crore, which it will be able to maintain by end of this fiscal, as per Budget documents.

“The increased allocation will be used for safety and capacity augmentation through super-critical and critical projects,” Vaishnaw said.

Railways hopes to finish this fiscal with an Operating Ratio of 98.93%, as per Revised Estimates, which is worse than the 96.15% pegged in Budget Estimates last tear.

The rolling stock programme may see projects worth over Rs 1 lakh crore spread over the next few years, including manufacturing of the new Vande Bharat train sets, new high-performance freight locomotives, and other products.

In terms of earnings, the national transporter estimates its earnings to be around Rs 2.4 lakh crore, around Rs 38,000 crore more than last year. Banking on recovery of its passenger business, which has been hit since 2020 due to the pandemic, the Railways estimates to earn Rs 58,500 crore in passenger business, up by Rs 14,000 crore, which is a growth of around 31 per cent from last fiscal.

Next year, Railways has targetted an ambitious 1,475 million tonnes of freight. In freight business, Railways has outperformed its Budget estimates for this year. While the estimate for this fiscal was to carry freight worth Rs 1.37 lakh crore, in Revised Estimates it hopes to do business worth Rs 1.45 lakh crore. The next fiscal it hopes to take this figure to Rs 1.65 lakh crore.

As for safety, the indigenous anti-collision system, called Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) now rechristened “Kavach”, which has been in various stages of use over the past several years, will cover 2,000 km of railway network.

The Railways is already in the process of making an installment of 44 Vande Bharat trains, in order to have Vande Bharat trains running on at least 75 routes by August 15, 2023. In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that 75 Vande Bharat trains would connect different parts of country by 2023.

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