It’s official now. The Ministry of Railways has directed the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here to cancel all ongoing tender processes for the making of the flagship Vande Bharat Express rakes.
After a high-level meeting comprising top officials of the Ministry and leading manufacturers of propulsion systems, it was decided to withdraw all tender processes for rolling out the self-propelled train, which was acclaimed as a game-changer and India’s first semi high-speed train.
According to railway sources, the purpose of the meeting was to get “the right technology with wide participation, transparently”.
Train18, later christened Vande Bharat Express and launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi between New Delhi and Varanasi in February this year, ran into controversy over allegations that one private firm was favoured in the manufacturing process of the ₹97-crore train.
While ICF has been accused of making several deviations from the specifications prescribed by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), top engineers involved in making the train in record time said that materials readily available were purchased to produce the train in a record 18 months, without making any compromise on the safety front.
Six months on, the Vande Bharat Express is in operation with no reported complaints.
“The Railway Board has directed ICF, Chennai, and Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareli, to cancel all tenders not only pertaining to Vande Bharat Express type of rakes but suburban trains such as Electric Multiple Units (EMU), Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU) and Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) as well. The objective is to offer a level playing field for all suppliers to participate in the making of these trains with the highest level of quality,” a senior railway official told The Hindu on Wednesday.
The tenders pertain to the purchase of propulsion systems for distributed power rolling stock, which include traction motors, transformers and traction converters, and are crucial components of the train.
“The Railway Board has informed the production units that the tender process should be restarted afresh later based on further instructions. Now it is official that the work stands deferred.
“The possibility of rolling out 10 rakes similar to that of Vande Bharat Express by March 2020 seems remote since the design has to be redrafted on the basis of RDSO specifications,” the official, who preferred not to be quoted, said.
Also, hundreds of files relating to the design aspects, sanctions, tenders and procurement of Train18 have been taken by vigilance officials for investigation.
The findings and recommendations of this enquiry would be crucial to take the mission forward, the sources added.