The Ministry of Railways is looking at a complete redesign of coaches and even procurement of full train rakes from foreign suppliers, provided they set up their facility here to comply with the ‘Make in India’ policy.
At a high-level meeting chaired by Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal, Members of the Railway Board and top suppliers of rolling stock/propulsion systems held in New Delhi, it was informed that the Railways would be willing to start import of complete train sets from foreign suppliers if they agreed to establish the coach manufacturing facility in India.
To meet global standards, the Railways would evolve standard eligibility criteria for propulsion systems as was done by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs that operates the Metro Railway.
The move comes amid the Centre’s plans to corporatise production units like the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, which is the largest coach making facility in the world, Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli, and Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala.
Though the railway management has assured them that corporatisation would not affect the employees in anyway but only strengthen the facility with more infrastructure and better governance, trade unions are opposing the idea fearing that it would pave the way for disinvestment or privatisation.
Replying to a question in Parliament raised by Lok Sabha MPs Deepak Baij and Su. Thirunavukkarasar a couple of days ago Mr. Goyal said the government had envisaged preparation of an action plan for corporatisation of the rolling stock production units. Existing production units would become a part of this structure in a phased manner.
The Railway Minister said the plan would bring in state-of-the-art technology, managerial autonomy, superior operational efficiency, export capability, employment generation, attract investments and make India an international hub for rolling stock manufacturing.
Mr. Goyal said the performance of existing production units was “very good” as they exceeded the target of manufacturing locomotives and coaches by a sizeable number in 2018-19.
However, he said, no final decision had been taken as regards corporatisation. But if any changes were to be made, “they shall provide better benefits to employees as compared to the existing scenario. The process will involve discussions with all stakeholders, including employees.”
When contacted senior Railway officials said it was too early to comment on the role of Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) on the proposed new design coaches. The turn of events came after the ICF rolled out the world class Train18, later named as Vande Bharat Express.
All India Railwaymen Federation National working president N. Kannaiah said the corporatisation was the first step to the bigger plan of privatisation. “Once the production units are brought under the umbrella of public sector unit, the Centre can decide on disinvesting the company. Now the public can purchase shares of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited … similarly attempts were made to sell shares of IRCON and RITES. Corporatising is nothing but a clear move towards privatisation,” he said.