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Probe sought into ‘sabotage’ of Vande Bharat Express

Work stalled: Train18 project got derailed after allegations surfaced over procedural flaws in the award of tenders.

Work stalled: Train18 project got derailed after allegations surfaced over procedural flaws in the award of tenders.   | Photo Credit: AP

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Railways planning global tenders for 160 coaches

In a twist to the ongoing controversy over halting production of Train18 coaches at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here, a top railway official has written to Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav demanding an enquiry into the ‘sabotage’ of the Vande Bharat Express project.

Also read: Vande Bharat Express architect seeks working environment 'free from fear'

Chief Administrative Officer, Rail Wheel Plant, Bela, Shubhranshu, who played a key role as the Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer in rolling out the indigenously built Train18 in record time, has expressed concern over the vigilance enquiry against almost all the senior officials of Team Train18 and alleged that efforts were on to implicate officers in some case or the other.

“The purpose [of enquiry] seems to be to sabotage the indigenous train forever and to kill the initiative...I, as the builder of the Vande Bharat Express, a senior government official and a concerned citizen of India, demand a vigilance enquiry into this sabotage of the Vande Bharat Express, air-conditioned Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs) and Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMUs),” he said.

 

The letter of Mr. Shubhranshu, an officer of the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, came at a time when the Ministry of Railways plans to float global tenders to procure 16 train sets (160 coaches) for the trains.

The Team ICF manufactured Train18 in a record 18 months which was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi between New Delhi and Varanasi in February. The second rake was launched between New Delhi and Katra later.

Successful initiative

Though celebrated as one of the most successful products of the “Make in India” initiative and orders placed for making dozens of train sets, the project got derailed after allegations surfaced over procedural flaws in the award of tenders. The Vigilance Directorate registered cases against almost all the senior engineers involved in the making of the train.

Also read: Top features and facilities of the country's 'fastest train'

“It is over six months now that the Vigilance has been going through the Train18 files of ICF with a fine tooth comb, but has found nothing incriminating. What started as accusations of violating procedures against the innovative, bold and nationalistic team of ICF later evolved into a full bloom vigilance enquiry,” he said.

Though the Express has been running successfully since its launch, it was alleged that the engineers compromised on safety aspects by not obtaining the sanction of the Research Designs and Standards Organisation of the Railways.

Soon after halting the work on making more rakes and transferring out some top officials involved in the making of Train18, the ICF was told to refer the design to the RDSO for approval.

Import order

The revised specifications of the self-propelled train set, Mr. Shubhranshu argued, would narrow down the competition and make the playing field more uneven. “I have learnt that an import proposal for 60 train sets has been made costing over ₹25,000 crore citing delay in the production of Vande Bharat in ICF. So, what started as an enquiry into alleged corruption in ICF and what intended to create more competition and level playing field has turned out into a sinister exercise to import when we should have been proudly exploring export markets. I feel that this enquiry into the so-called irregularities was designed to sabotage the greatest Make in India’ success story,” he said in his letter.

Officials who were part of Team18 project say the new design and specifications would result in a sharp increase in the cost of procuring the train sets involving global manufacturers.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 4:46:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/probe-sought-into-sabotage-of-vande-bharat-express/article30127618.ece

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