As Indian Railways (IR) has remained opposed to the idea of awarding single-tender contracts in the past, the possibility of refloating the tender is under discussion, even though the financial bids are yet to be evaluated and IR’s tender committee has not yet published its final recommendations. “The issue has not been finalised yet,” says a senior IR official.
IR intends to deploy the EMUs on premium main line routes such as Delhi - Mumbai and Delhi - Kolkata with the aim of providing higher passenger comfort and shorter journey times. The trains will have a top speed of 160km/h, compared with an average of 130km/h for premier Indian trains such as the Shatabdi and Rajdhani services. However, IR does not yet have any sections of line passed for 160km/h operation.
The EMU project has been in the making for several years. In the final railway budget speech in 2015, former railways minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu, announced a Rs 24bn plan for the acquisition of trains from European or Japanese vendors. In the same year, IR’s Railway Board floated global bids and organised a series of pre-bid conferences. Eventually, it was decided that the contract should be handled by one of IR manufacturing units - in this case the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF).
The ICF global tender floated in November 2017 included a pre-condition that only firms with an existing facility to manufacture three-phase electrical motors would qualify.
“As the tender process was completed within four months, the time provided to prepare the documents or firm up collaborations was short,” says Mr Subrata Nath, director, Asia-Pacific, with Talgo. “If IR decides to re-float bids, we would certainly wish to participate.”
Despite successful trials with Talgo tilting trains in India in 2016, IR rejected the offer to buy Talgo trains on the grounds of the “single vendor” status of the Spanish company.
ICF’s current tender document allows for the first train to be imported, while the remaining trains will need to be progressively manufactured in India, with the last four trains entirely manufactured in India.