Train 18 tender processes stopped; engineers upset

The move by the ministry has upset engineers and others involved in the prestigious project that gave India its fastest train. They say the project is as good as killed at least for the next two years.

Train 18, touted as India’s fastest train designed and built in a record time of two years, will not be manufactured for now with the Railway Ministry cancelling all ongoing tender processes for the production of the super-fast trains.

The move by the ministry has upset engineers and others involved in the prestigious project that gave India its fastest train. They say the project is as good as killed at least for the next two years.

The first set of Train 18 conceived, designed and manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here under the ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, was rolled out in October last year and it was rechristened as ‘Vande Bharat’ Express running between New Delhi and Varanasi since February this year.

The tender process has been cancelled due to allegations that one company was favoured in making the first set of train at a cost of Rs 97 crore. Also, it is alleged that ICF officials had deviated heavily from the design of the train approved by RDSO by bringing in their own ideas.

Though the tender processes have been cancelled and the Vigilance Wing is holding an investigation, engineers and officials involved in the production of the flagship train are upset, to say the least.

“The production of the train will be killed for at least two years. This will be the result of the process of cancellation of tenders. Whatever one might say, it would take a much longer time for another Train 18 set to come out of ICF,” a senior engineer involved in the design and production of the train told DH.

Pointing out that the Train 18 has been successfully running on the tracks for the past six months without any major glitch, the engineer said there was no need to cancel the tender process since everything was done in a transparent manner.

Another engineer, who was also involved in building the train and did not want to be quoted, said: “This happens in India. That’s all I can say. Only those involved in the project would know the kind of hard work put in to make an indigenous train in a short span of time. But every bit of hard work is being questioned in the name of transparency,” he told DH.

Sources in the ICF said the processes have cancelled to bring in more transparency in the way tenders are awarded. “All decisions are made at the top level in the Railway Ministry and Railway Board. We do what we are told to,” the source in ICF said.

The train can accommodate a total of 1,128 passengers —78 in the normal coach and 52 in the executive coach – and boasts of passenger amenities such as onboard Wi-Fi infotainment, GPS Based Passenger Information System, plush interiors, bio-vacuum toilets, diffused LED lighting, charging points beneath every seat and CCTV cameras.

The train set has a self-propelled engine and will save diesel and about 30% of electricity, thanks to its advanced regenerative braking system.

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