Train 18 production on track: The new system makes it mandatory for Indian Railways production units to follow the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) specifications while issuing a tender.
Train 18 or the Vande Bharat Express project which had been stuck due to vigilance issues is now back on track! Faced with allegations of favouritism in the tendering process of the first Train 18, or Vande Bharat Express train set, the production of the third Train 18 unit had been stopped. According to a PTI report, the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, had scrapped all existing tenders for the third rake. Now, Indian Railways is introducing a new tendering system to give all bidders a level playing field, thereby ensuring transparency for the third Train 18 set.
The new system makes it mandatory for Indian Railways production units to follow the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) specifications while issuing a tender. RDSO functions as a technical advisor and consultant to Indian Railways. These specifications were not followed during the manufacturing of first Train 18 set by the ICF. According to an official, the move will bring in more transparency and also it will give all the parties a level playing field.
The second Train 18 set is ready and is likely to be flagged off next month on the Delhi-Katra route. Officials were quoted in the report saying that the new tendering process gives three months to vendors to apply for bids instead of the current three weeks.
The manufacturing of Train 18’s first rake was done in a record time of just 18 months at a cost of around Rs 97 crore. However, the Railway Ministry received nearly 25 complaints from multinational companies and vendors that a domestic private company was allegedly favoured in the procurement process for the train set’s electrical equipment.
During the bidding process for the first Train 18 rake, a total of 18 companies were in the fray for supplying electrical equipment, out of which eight were Indian companies. According to sources quoted in the report, due to certain pre-bidding conditions, only one consortium could make it on the last day of the tender submission, i.e., 6 February 2018. This resulted in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) red-flagging the process. Thus, the manufacturing of the third Train 18 set virtually stopped with a vigilance enquiry at the ICF underway. Apart from ICF, the Modern Coach Factory (MCF) in Rae Bareli, also cancelled all tenders pertaining to Vande Bharat Express type of rakes, suburban trains such as Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU), Electric Multiple Units (EMU) and Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU).
According to a senior Railway Ministry official, the Railway Board recently met train set manufacturers and told them that train sets could be procured from them only if the demand exceeds the manufacturing capacity of Indian Railways’ production units. The ICF, Chennai has been sanctioned to develop as many as 40 Vande Bharat Express train sets over the next three years, with 10 train sets in 2019-20 and 15 train sets each in the next two years, the report said.