INDIAN Railways (IR) has selected seven companies to supply propulsion equipment for 58 160km/h Vande Bharat EMUs all of which will be manufactured in India. The total order is worth Rs 18.5bn ($US 240m).

Two Vande Bharat inter-city trains have been in service on the Delhi - Varanasi and the Delhi - Katra routes since 2019 with a third train set to enter service in June. These trains were built by the state-owned Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai and ICF will oversee manufacturing of 26 of the trains from this latest order. Medha Servo Drives is set to manufacture propulsion systems for the fleet under the supervision of ICF engineers.

In addition, Siemens will supply traction equipment for 16 trains and Alstom nine. Siemens is set to partner with Modern Coach Factory in Amethi while Alstom will manufacture its trains in partnership with the Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala.

State-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) will provide the systems for four trains while single developmental orders have also been placed with the Saini Electricals and Titagarh-Firema. These trains are expected to be manufactured by ICF, although this hasn’t been confirmed. “Our company has been asked to supply the systems for one train within 24 months,” Mr Umesh Chowdhury of Titagarh told IRJ.

IR is procuring the new trains to speed up the speed of its services. Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans for the manufacture of 400 Vande Bharat trains by 2025 in her budget speech in January.

An initial order for the traction equipment for 44 trains was placed with Medha Servo Drives last year. Alstom and Siemens did not participate in this tender process following a disagreement with requirements to supply bogies and wheels, along with the propulsion systems. The second tender did not entail the same clauses. 

India’s railway industry is generally enthused with IR's push to acquire modern rolling stock, but there are some reservations about IR's policy to engage multiple players. “It is always good to have two suppliers but splitting up the contract between seven companies could cause delays in project execution,” says former ICF managing director, Mr Sushanshu Mani, known as the inventor of the Vande Bharat trains.

There is also concern about installing facilities to maintain the trains. “Timetables and routes need to be decided now, so that maintenance sheds are constructed at the right locations,” a ministry official said. “Unfortunately, there is no focus on such activities at the moment.”

The new trains are likely to replace the inter-city Shatabdi trains, which operate on day-long journeys.

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