Vande Bharat dream goes on slow track; Train 20 likely to be shelved

The second train in the Vande Bharat series is likely to be launched soon from New Delhi to Katra
The ambitious aluminium-bodied Train 20 project — considered as the successor of Vande Bharat Train or Train 18 — is likely to be shelved by the Indian Railways. This comes at a time when two consecutive bulk tenders for the propulsion systems of Train 18 got cancelled recently, citing technical reasons. 

A third tender, estimated around Rs 1,300 crore for 37 trains, is likely to be floated soon. Sources said the plans for Train 20, on the other hand, were shelved as the features were already incorporated in Vande Bharat, except the aluminium body that helps in attaining better speed for high-speed trains. 

Though bids for 43 Train 18 sets were invited first, orders for only three were given, including one for Spanish major CAF and Medha Group that supplied for the first Vande Bharat Train. Following this, a second tender was floated for 37 Train 18 propulsion systems that got cancelled. Of the Rs 100-crore spent on the first rake, about Rs 35 crore was on the propulsion system. 

“Train 20 is almost shelved. However, for Train 18, a third tender may be coming up for more participation from the multinational majors,” said a person privy to the development. Two other persons involved with the project confirmed the information. 

The second train in the Vande Bharat series is likely to be launched soon from New Delhi to Katra. For this, the railway ministry is reportedly awaiting the final nod from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). After the bids got derailed, plans for 45 new Vande Bharat trains by 2021-22 by ICF board may get delayed. 

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had earlier said there was a plan to have 100 such train sets, after the launch of the first indigenous semi-high speed trainset Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Varanasi on February 15. The train that was considered to be a Make in India success has around 80 per cent of indigenous components. 

According to an initial plan lined up by the ICF, it wanted to come up with one trainset every alternate month till March 2020, and one rake per month from April 2020. Another source said the railways was in the process of identifying fresh routes for new Vande Bharat trains, which are supposed to replace Shatabdis and Rajdhanis in the longer run. 

“The comparison between Train 18 and Train 20 is not justifiable, and the latter was supposed to be having additional safety features and had aluminium body too. The derailment of the Train 18 tender too may not help the entire concept of Make in India in the long run,” said an industry veteran. Sources also indicated that an Indian company had declined the two trains allotted to them during the first tender because of the small size of the deal. Both Train 18 and Train 20 had got its names because of the year in which the government wanted to launch them, 2018 and 2020, respectively.

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