In a policy shift, the Indian Railways is mulling the idea of buying readymade trains from private players instead of making them at production units.
As of now, three production units — the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli, and Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala — roll out rakes for the Railways.
At a high-level meeting of Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal and Minister of State of Railways Suresh C. Angadi and top officials and manufacturers of trains/coach components held in New Delhi recently, the idea of procuring Trainsets, Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) and Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) from the industry was mooted, official sources said on Sunday.
It was concluded at the meeting that a considered view should be taken on procurement of complete train sets from trade instead of procurement of propulsion equipment and manufacture of car body and equipping the same in production units.
This would enable the Railways to procure the right global technology available.
Referring to a request from the industry, it was stated that the Railways should consider procuring complete rakes of EMU and MEMU as per past practice, by considering the requirement and capacity of production units.
2,000 rakes to roll out
It was revealed at the meeting that the Railways planned to roll out over 2,000 rakes, including 320 Vande Bharat Express- type of trains and 124 rakes for Kolkata Metro in the next three years.
However, Mr. Goyal made it clear that the procurement of propulsion equipment or complete trains should be done in accordance with the ‘Make in India’ policy.
The move follows a row over India’s first semi-high-speed Train 18 or Vande Bharat Express and the decision to stop production of the train at the ICF here for a variety of reasons.
Though the concept of buying readymade trains instead of making them is at a nascent stage, the very idea has come as a shocker to a section of employees who feel that the move would render thousands of railway employees in production and ancillary units jobless in the long run.
The ICF which is acclaimed as the world’s largest coach factory has rolled out the Vande Bharat Express, Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches based on German technology and the conventional blue ICF-designed coaches that are operated across the country.
“We also make coaches for the Indian Army and several neighbouring countries. The manpower, infrastructure and technology of ICF is among the best in the world and the current target is to roll out 4,000 new coaches,” a senior ICF official told The Hindu on Sunday.
Buying a readymade train from private firms is not new to the Railways. The trains run by Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) were procured as a complete set from Alstom that has a facility in Sri City.
“But, procurement from trade, whether imported or indigenous, has always been at exorbitant prices. In fact in all Metro tenders the production units of Indian Railways were kept out by cleverly making international experience one of the criteria for consideration. Ironically, efforts for making Metro coaches under the Make in India initiative are being scuttled by specifying international experience as an eligibility norm. Now, with procurement of trainsets from trade it looks like the end of the road for Railways’ in-house production units”, the official who preferred anonymity, added.
Replying to a question in Parliament on Vande Bharat Express earlier this month, Mr. Goyal said modernisation of trains was a continuous process. Introduction of Vande Bharat train sets was a path-breaking achievement. Action had also been initiated for acquiring technology for manufacture of aluminium body coaches in railway factories, he said.