Amid the reports of a delay in rolling out of Vande Bharat trains, the Railways has said that the trains sets will now be manufactured by not one production unit but three rail companies in the country to ensure the delivery within the next three years.
The trains will be now simultaneously manufactured in three production units – the Railway Coach Factory at Kapurthala, Modern Coach Factory at Rae Bareilly and the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav has said.
Vande Bharat Express, India’s first indigenously built semi-high speed train, was successfully rolled out from Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai in February 2019 followed by a second one in October 2019.
After the roaring success of the Vande Bharat Express, the Railways decided to go for 44 more such trains in its efforts to provide better amenities and comfortable rides to passengers across the country.
However, the ICF, which has floated a tender for the proposed Vande Bharat trains, in a letter to Railway Board has said that the whole process to roll out these 44 Vande Bharat train sets could take up to 78 months to complete which means no Vande Bharat before 2027.
According to the July 14 letter, ICF said it would take 28 months to introduce the prototype rakes into commercial service. Additionally, it would take six months to start the series production, and subsequently, the supply of series equipment of each of the 44 rakes would take one month each. So the whole process would take up to 78 months to complete, the ICF estimated.
Since the ICF letter created doubts over the Vande Bharat delivery schedule, railways came out with a detailed plan involving three production units to speed up the manufacturing of train sets.
Terming the letter as “internal communication”, Yadav said, “Internal communications are meant for making the decision. We want to assure you we will come up with a definite time schedule.”
The fully AC train, also known as “Train-18”, is a plush 16-coach, self-propelled train set which doesn’t have a locomotive. He further said “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.”
Vande Bharat was built at a cost of about Rs 100 cr and has been operational on Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra routes.
“The ICF assessment was internal. The internal assessment was a normal timetable they (ICF) had drawn for themselves… And the Indian Railways had already taken a decision 3-4 months ago that ICF, RCF (Rail Coach Factory) and MCF (Modern Coach Factory) will together manufacture the Vande Bharat trains,” the Chairman of Railway board said.
All the coaches are equipped with automatic doors, a GPS-based passenger information system, and free WiFi. But the Wi-Fi can only be used to access select entertainment content provided by the Railways. The toilets are bio-vacuum type, similar to those on aeroplanes.
On the downside, the chair car seats are not very comfortable, though the leg space is adequate. In contrast, the executive class seats are plush and can rotate 180 degrees. Every coach has a pantry with facilities to serve hot meals and hot or cold beverages. The coaches are also well insulated from outside noise.