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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Vande Bharat: New specifications make railway board officials sceptical of 2022 target for 45 Express trains

According to officials, the first train set cannot be prepared before 2022 while the mass production for another 40 trains will not happen before 2024.

Written by Iram Siddique | Mumbai | Published: December 16, 2019 2:12:07 am
Vande Bharat: New specifications make railway board officials sceptical of 2022 target for 45 Express trains The ICF, which will finally design the train, will have to conduct elaborate trials once these electrical and non-electrical parts have been procured. (File)

SENIOR OFFICIALS of the Railway Board have pointed out that revised specifications, as finalised by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), for the Vande Bharat Express train will lead to severe production delay, even as the board asked the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) to kickstart the tendering process for manufacturing 45 rakes as per new specifications and set a target of 2021-22.

According to officials, the first train set cannot be prepared before 2022 while the mass production for another 40 trains will not happen before 2024. Subhranshu, the former principal chief mechanical engineer (PCME) involved in the project since its inception, had sent a letter to the chairman of the Railway Board in September, elaborating on the delay that these new specifications would cause.

The RDSO has not only altered the electrics for the new semi high-speed train, which includes its propulsion system, but also the non-electric items such as automatic doors, braking systems and coaches that will not only have to be completely redesigned but also sourced from third parties, an official said.

Companies which supply the electrics have been asked to provide purely mechanical assemblies for the production. According to senior railway officials, in a meeting held by the RDSO, the suppliers have protested the inclusion of non-electric items in electric specifications. The revised specifications have completely changed the design of the train set, as compared to the two Vande Bharat Express trains presently in service from New Delhi to Varanasi, and another to Katra since February.

The ICF, which will finally design the train, will have to conduct elaborate trials once these electrical and non-electrical parts have been procured.

In a letter sent to the chairman of the Railway Board, Subhranshu had pointed out that the new specifications will create a timeline which will make it impossible to manufacture 40 new Vande Bharat trains in the ICF by 2022.

In his letter, he also stated that it will take three months from the date of finalising the specifications to starting the tendering process, and another two for them to be finalised. Once these tenders got the nod, his letter stated, it will take about 18 months for the prototype rake with new electronics and non-electronics to be ready, which will then be followed by three months of inspection.

He also pointed out that after the electrical and non-electrical components were inspected and approved, it will take the ICF another four to six months to manufacture the train and three months for the trains to get the required clearance from the commissioner of railway safety after exhaustive oscillation trials.

So, he pointed out, that it will only be after a year of successful run of the new prototype that its large-scale production will begin, and that could not happen before 2024. However, the Railway Board, on Saturday, has asked the ICF to go ahead with the production of 45 Vande Bharat Express trains.

Subhranshu, who was serving as the PCME at the ICF and heading the Vande Bharat project, was moved out in February to Southern Railway. Merely after serving six months at the Southern Railway, he was transferred to the Rail Wheel Plant at Bela in Bihar, where he is serving as the chief administrative officer.

Asked about the delay in production, V K Yadav, Chairman of the Railway Board, told The Indian Express, “It is not true that the production will be delayed. We have an entire plan which has been prepared by the RDSO, a full-fledged organisation. We will complete production of all 45 rakes by 2022.” He further went on to dismiss the talks of delayed production as misinformation.

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