New Delhi, India (Urban Transport News): Announcement of 400 new Vande Bharat Semi High Speed trains over the next three years in Union Budget 2022-23 is not just headline catching announcement. It is about Rs 40,000 crore business opportunity for railway sector that would also create over 15,000 jobs and several spin-off benefits.
Presenting the Union Budget for 2022-23, Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman said 400 new generation Vande Bharat trains with better efficiency to be brought in the next 3 years.The Vande Bharat (previously known as Train-18) is a semi-high speed train designed, developed and built by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at a frugal outlay of Rs 100 crore. It is one classic example of 'Make in India' and far cheaper than similar trains that are rolled out by foreign countries.
At present, there are only two Vande Bharat Express trains that are running in India. One from New Delhi to Varanasi and another one from New Delhi to Katra.
The both trains without a pair are running six days a week without a breakdown till date since they were pressed into service a couple of years back. Perhaps Vande Bharat Express is the first train that is run without a pair. The train has only about 15 per cent import content which will further go down if production volumes increase.
On August 15, 2021 during his Independance day speech at Lal Quila, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced introduction of one Vande Bharat train in every week. However, third Vande Bharat Express train is running on dreams only as production of new trains are getting delayed due to production bottlenecks and logistical challenges. In view of this, how the government is going to achieve its target of 400 Vande Bharat Express trains over the next three years is the Rs 40,000 crore, is a big question.
The other big question is the availability of the vendors. Unless the government gives a clear roadmap, vendors may not ramp up their production capacity. Further, vendors and ICF officials are reluctant to touch the Vande Bharat train project after the witch hunt in the form of vigilance enquiry that was conducted and concluded recently without finding any discrepancy.
Updating the progress of third protoype, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said, "The upgraded Vande Bharat train is expected to be ready for tests in April and commercial production is expected to start in August/September, 2022."
"I would think that a more realistic target of say 100-150 trains in three years would have been better. This target itself would need very concerted and committed action by railway executives, particularly at ICF," Sudhanshu Mani, retired General Manager, ICF and the innovator of Vande Bharat Train.