Vande Bharat trains hit a hurdle
The joint venture (JV) between Indian public sector organisation (PSU) Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL) and Russian transportation firm Transmashholding (TMH) to produce 120 Vande Bharat Express train sets, valued at about $3.63 billion (more than 30,000 crores), has encountered difficulties.
- The Vande Bharat is an indigenously designed and manufactured semi-high-speed, self-propelled train that is based on a propulsion system called distributed traction power technology.
- They were called Train 18 during the development phase and are manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, as part of the ‘Make in India’ programme.
- The new train is faster, easier to maintain, consumes less energy, and has greater flexibility in operation.
- India aims to manufacture 400 Vande Bharat trains by the year 2025.
- The Vande Bharat was India’s first attempt at the creation of the train set technology compared with conventional systems of passenger coaches hauled by separate locomotives.
- It can achieve a maximum speed of 160 Kmph due to faster acceleration and deceleration, reducing journey time by 25% to 45%.
- It is also equipped with an intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient.
- Up to 108 districts in 17 States have been connected by Vande Bharat trains.
Features of Vande Bharat Trains:
- These trains operate without an engine and are based on a propulsion system called distributed traction power technology, by which each car of the train set is powered.
- The coaches of Vande Bharat incorporate passenger amenities including onboard WiFi entertainment, GPS-based passenger information system, CCTVs, automatic doors in all coaches, rotating chairs and bio-vacuum type toilets like in aircraft diving friendly toilets and automatic sliding cabin doors.
- They can achieve a maximum speed of 160 kmph due to faster acceleration and deceleration, reducing journey time by 25% to 45%.
- It also has an intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient.
- The current Vande Bharat trains have seating only in two classes — chair car and executive chair car.
Points to Ponder:
- The Indian Railways granted the TMH-RVNL partnership a joint venture contract for about $3.63 billion to produce 120 Vande Bharat Express train sets.
- The JV has run into issues as a result of the sanctions put in place against Russia after the conflict in Ukraine. Since many of the necessary components must be imported from Western European and American firms, these restrictions have an impact on spare parts suppliers for the Vande Bharat trains.
- As a measure to reassure foreign suppliers and bankers, RVNL has asked for a majority stake in the JV. These organisations feel better at ease doing business with an Indian company because of the sanctions against Russia.
- TMH and RVNL are at odds because TMH refused to grant RVNL’s request for a majority stake. The project’s progress has also been hampered by TMH’s failure to deposit the needed bank guarantee in the amount of almost 200 crores.
- The United States placed sanctions on Metrovagonmash, a division of TMH that specialises in producing railway rolling stock and is in charge of maintenance and replacement parts. This complicates the process of supplying the Vande Bharat trains with essential components.
- By June 2025, the first two Vande Bharat prototype trains must be prepared for testing and trials. Once permitted, the consortium intends to produce 12 to 18 trains in a tapering manner each year. Additionally, they will provide 35 years of train maintenance services.
- For the train sets and an additional $2.5 billion for upkeep, the Indian Railways has set aside $1.8 billion.
- Because of TMH’s technical prowess and the requirement for comfort when interacting with them, railway authorities are optimistic that the problem will be rectified within a few days.
- TMH and RVNL both agreed to keep the discussions over the agreement private and to keep them from becoming public. Details about the shareholder battle and the effect of the sanctions on the project, however, have come to light.