The new contract is expected to delay the introduction of the 160km/h trains by around five years. The first two prototypes will be delivered 20 months after the contract is signed in February, with deliveries subsequently continuing at a rate of six trains per quarter.
The contract includes five years’ maintenance.
According to the schedule included in the tender, the first new train will roll out by mid-2023, with all 44 due to be completed by late 2024.
The fleet is similar to the two T-18 trains manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai in association with the Medha Servo Drives, which supplied the propulsion systems. The trains entered service in 2019. New specifications will allow for faster acceleration, with the contract with Medha Servo Drives also including a new clause to supply bogies for the trains.
Like the two earlier T-18 trains, which are now operating on two routes on IR's mainline network, the new trains will have eight powered cars, four trailer cars, and two non-driving trailer coaches using a 50% powering technique.
The trains will continue to be equipped with air-conditioning, automatic exterior doors and interior doors between the coaches, retractable footsteps and a passenger information system.
Former ICF chief, Mr Sudhanshu Mani, who is known as the “T-18 Man,” says the “design changes stipulated in the new tender seem largely unnecessary, as these are unlikely to translate into demonstrable improvements in the running of the trains.”
In keeping with the government’s “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” (Self Reliant India) strategy, the contract stipulates that 75% of the total value of the tender must be local content. The trains will be manufactured at IR’s three production sites, with 24 sets due to be built at ICF, 10 at the Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala and the remaining 10 at the Modern Coach Factory at Rae Bareli.
ICF built the first two T-18 EMUs in February 2019 following an 18-month development period. Serial production stalled in 2019 due to public controversies involving senior ministry officials over the design concept, while cases were also filed against officials leading the project.
Fresh bids were invited in December 2019, but the process again due to “improperly submitted documents.” The final tender was invited in September 2020.
The delay in finalising the T-18 plan has had another adverse fallout, with plans to manufacture higher-speed, lighter aluminium-bodied T-20 EMUs seemingly shelved.
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