Despite hurdles, Vande Bharat Express to remain on track

Plans to add 40 such semi-high-speed trains by 2022 remain on track, says Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav.

September 17, 2019 10:35 pm | Updated September 18, 2019 02:00 am IST - NEW DELHI

New Delhi: Vande Bharat Express, India's first semi-high speed train, leaves from New Delhi Railway Station after its flag off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (unseen), Friday, Feb.15, 2019. The train will run between Delhi-Varanasi. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh) (PTI2_15_2019_000016B)

New Delhi: Vande Bharat Express, India's first semi-high speed train, leaves from New Delhi Railway Station after its flag off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (unseen), Friday, Feb.15, 2019. The train will run between Delhi-Varanasi. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh) (PTI2_15_2019_000016B)

To bring some festive cheer for travellers, the Indian Railways plans to begin the second Vande Bharat Express on the Delhi-Katra route before Deepavali, Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said on Tuesday.

Mr. Yadav said the plans to add 40 such semi-high-speed trains by 2022 remained on track despite a few hurdles, adding that the specifications of the new trains had been modified to also support sleeper class coaches as against only chair-car class coaches now.

“The Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express has completed all trials and will be run before the festival season begins from October... We have made a couple of changes in the second rake such as a more comfortable seating and pantry space,” Mr. Yadav said.

The indigenously manufactured train, which is now running between Delhi-Varanasi route, will bring down the travel time between Delhi and Katra to eight hours from 12.

On the controversy over the delay in the manufacture of the new Vande Bharat Express, including allegations of malpractices and faulty design, Mr. Yadav said, “Whenever you do an innovation, the first product is likely to face certain issues. The first train which was run had some teething troubles... the train was good, but we are aiming for the best.”

He said the national transporter had planned to have 40 rakes of the express by 2021-22 and that plan remained on track.

The railways had opened bidding for a “propulsion equipment” for these new rakes in March. While eight bids were received, only one firm qualified for regular orders.

While evaluating the bids, the tender committee, however, recommended that fresh tenders should be initiated after a review of all eligibility conditions “to widen the vendor base and also eliminate the clauses that may unduly restrict eligibility”. Mr. Yadav said fresh bids would now be opened in October and tenders were likely to be awarded by January 2020.

Additionally, with regards to alleged vigilance inquiry being ordered for the Vande Bharat project, the Chairman said the inquiry was for some “irregularities” found at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), but not specific to the Vande Bharat Express.

“We had received complaints about procurement and irregularities in the ICF in general. In some cases for example, the procurement rates were much higher than the general rates across. So the inquiry was for this and some irregularities were found. So this is being investigated,” he said, adding that the inquiry would be completed in the next three months.

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