Russian firm gets order to make sleeper version of Vande Bharat

The India Railways have allocated ₹58,000 crore for the project of build 200 sleeper variants, which will start rolling over the track by the end of this year

Sleeper version Vande Bharat

New Delhi: The Indian Railways have issued the letter of acceptance to the joint venture company between Russian firm Transmashholding (TMH) and the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) to build 120 sleeper coaches for the semi-high speed Vande Bharat trains.

As per the contract, the Russian firm company supply 120 sleeper variant of Vande Bharat, while a consortium of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Titagarh Wagons have been given orders to manufacture 80 such trains. The India Railways have allocated ₹58,000 crore for the project of build 200 sleeper variants.

The contract to build a sizable chunk of sleeper Vande Bharat train was given to the Russian firm at a time, when the country has been facing various sanctions from the western country after its forces Ukraine, which is having support of the NATO.

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These trains are planned to be run as overnight trains, replacing the existing Rajdhani trains. In accordance with the tender conditions, these will be built at the existing railway facility at Latur in Maharashtra. The contract also envisages a 35-year maintenance clause.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her last budget speech announced plans to run 400 Vande Bharat trains in the next three years. It’s stated that the first sleeper version of Vande Bharat express will be rolling on the track by the end of this year.

Russia has been India’s traditional partner in the defence sector but will be making an entry into the country’s rail sector for the first time. The Russian offer does not seem to do much harm to India in financial terms, as the TMH has quoted a price of ₹120 crores to build each of these 16-coach trains. The French Alstom had offered a quote of ₹160 crores, while the Swiss Stadler – with the Indian Medha Servo Drives as its joint venture partner-had quoted a price of ₹170 crores.

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The BHEL-Titagarh Wagons had initially quoted a price of ₹140 crores but has reduced the price to ₹120 crores to match the Russian offer. The tender conditions stipulated that the L-2 (second lowest bidder) consortium needed to match the rates offered by L-1 joint venture in order to qualify for the contract.

Technical experts, however, fear that barring the Titagarh Wagons – the other players do not either have an enviable record in project development or have had no previous experience in India. The Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) had earlier awarded some contracts to the BHEL to build electric multiple unit (EMU) and the mainline electric multiple unit (MEMU) trains. However, BHEL reportedly failed to meet the delivery schedule.

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Industry sources said that in order to meet the tight deadlines on delivery of the Vande Bharat trains, the BHEL might source the electricals from the Swedish ABB. BHEL’s joint venture partner in any case, established a brand for itself. Titagarh has delivered coaches for the Pune metro and in collaboration with the Chinese CRC, which is also engaged in rolling stock supply for the Bengaluru metro. In 2015, the Titagarh Wagons also acquired the Firema Tranporti, the Italian passenger and metro coach maker.

“We are confident about meeting the delivery schedules”, said Umesh Chowdhury, managing director of Titagarh Wagons.

The TMH is Russia’s largest manufacturer of rolling stock and railway equipment with customers in several East European countries but has had no presence in India. Its Indian partner, the RVNL, also has no previous experience in rolling stock manufacture, with the only silver lining being that the company has familiarity with the Latur factory; with the company having built the facility. In any case, there are apprehensions that the Russian company will find it difficult to meet the ambitious delivery schedules for the supply of these trains.

“The Russian company will probably need to depend heavily on the domestic industry. To that extent, bigger opportunities will emerge for India’s rail industry”, said former railways officer engaged in development of Vande Bharat trains’ concept.

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