To commemorate 75 years of Independence, Indian Railways plans to roll out at least 10 new indigenous semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express trains, connecting around 40 cities, by August 2022. The engineering company Medha, which was awarded the contract to supply the electrical systems for a total of 44 Vande Bharat train sets in the month of February, has now been told by the railway authorities to advance its production plan so that by March next year at least two prototype trains can be rolled out following all trial runs. According to an IE report, there is a contract condition that besides all testing and trials that are required to pass a Vande Bharat trainset, the prototype train should also complete commercial operation of 1 lakh km with passengers, before the following lot can be placed for manufacturing.
With this condition, it could take months for the indigenous semi-high speed trains to hit the railway tracks commercially. The initial plan, without the thrust, was to roll out the Vande Bharat trains’ first set on the rail tracks by December 2022 or early 2023. The Railway Board held a meeting on Saturday, headed by chairman Suneet Sharma. According to the sources quoted in the report, the meeting was attended by concerned Railway Board members, General Managers of production units, the RDSO as well as other engineers.
As per the estimation of officials, if all three production units are put to use, the national transporter can manufacture approximately 67 Vande Bharat train sets. A self-propelled Vande Bharat train set has 16 coaches and it does not require an engine to haul them. This is known as distributed traction power, which is increasingly becoming the norm across the world, as opposed to trains hauled by locomotives. Being run with the distributed power mechanism, the train, which is India’s own semi-high speed train set, has faster acceleration and deceleration. This helps to maintain a higher average speed despite halts. Also, this ensures that unlike ordinary loco-hauled trains such as Shatabdi and Rajdhani, wherein time and speed are lost when it has to halt and gather speed again, the Vande Bharat takes less travel time in completing its journeys.
At present, only two Vande Bharat trains are operational between Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra. The plan is to get as many as 100 such train sets eventually. To produce 100 Vande Bharat trains each with 16 coaches, the cost would be around Rs 11,000 crore (around Rs 110 crore per train). Under the new plan, the Railway Ministry’s idea is to get maximum Vande Bharat Express trains rolled out by the year 2024 by utilizing the three production units of Indian Railways– Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli, Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala.