PM Modi flags off the first Vande Bharat Express train in this February 2019 file photo | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
PM Modi flags off the first Vande Bharat Express train in this February 2019 file photo | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Text Size:

New Delhi: The Integrated Coach Factory (ICF), a coach manufacturer under the Indian Railways, has withdrawn from the project to manufacture 44 rakes for the Modi government’s showpiece semi-high-speed Vande Bharat Express trains, ThePrint has learnt.

According to sources in the railways, the ICF discharged the tender Thursday because of “administrative lapses in the tendering process and other technical reasons”. The cancellation by the ICF comes after months-long delays and controversies, and proves yet another setback for the ambitious project. 

ThePrint reached Railways Ministry spokesperson D.J. Narain through text messages for a comment, but there was no reply until the time of publishing this report.

The ICF’s decision follows differences with the Indian Railways over the deadline for rolling out 44 new Vande Bharat Express trains — while the railways has so far maintained that the 44 train sets (also called rakes) will be introduced in 2021-22, an internal estimate by the ICF showed the process could take six-and-a-half years.

The Railway Board chairman had dismissed this assessment at a virtual press meet last month, saying the ICF was not going to manufacture the rakes by itself, but with two other coach manufacturing facilities, the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) and the Modern Coach Factory (MCF).

The original version of the Vande Bharat rakes — also called the T-18 trains — had taken just 18 months to cover the stages of conceptualisation, design, manufacture and rollout, and two of these rakes — built at a cost of approximately Rs 100 crore — have been providing trouble-free service on two routes: Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra.

However, the production of the rest of the 44 rakes has been mired in controversy.

Among other things, the project has faced delays since the earlier proposal to import complete train sets from foreign manufacturers had led to opposition from political parties, senior officials and other stakeholders, who had criticised the railways for ignoring local options.

The turf war between the mechanical and the electrical engineering departments had resulted in allegations of favouritism, safety compromises and other flaws, which, in turn, led to the transfer of top officials from the team.

The third and latest tender was floated by the Modi government in December 2019 with changes meant to create a level-playing field to bring down prices.

Also Read: Railways could drop Chinese company bid for 44 Vande Bharat trains under Rs 1,500-cr project

A project closely watched by the PMO 

In July 2019, former principal secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, had written a letter to the chairman of the Railway Board about the ambitious project, emphasising the “need for transparency and dignity in the decision-making at all cost”.

“There are issues regarding quality of spares/items, response on the tender and representations by the suppliers regarding the specifications which allege to favour a specific bidder,” the letter, accessed by ThePrint, said.

“You also claimed that it is indigenously developed train set but there is a reference to Spanish manufacturer who seems to have procured developmental order. It is observed in your note that decision was taken to ‘ensure that some production continued while the eligibility condition and specification issues were resolved’.”

Also Read: Delay, ‘sabotage’, additional costs — why Vande Bharat train plans risk going off track


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

4 Comments Share Your Views



  2. Empty hypocrisy and show of wordsMAKE IN INDIA,,,,, BE VOCAL FOR LOCALTypical case here where our leaders only preach but never practice,,,, shame on them,,, this is what we call upperhandedness

  3. How can same report be presented in such diverging ways? Many media channels cover this as dropping of a Chinese govt. entity from the tender process . Wonder how things can be looked at differently by design or by choice or by biases?

  4. With this attitude bharat will never be aatmanirbhar.

    Producing, designing locally is to create jobs and build capabilities instead different departments are tied up in turf wars.

    What else can we expect when people of individual agenda and betterment in mind and practice instead of nation building.

    Kudos to ICF and Railways on a job well done.

    Keep doing what you are doing. Better let’s setup a commission and prepare lot of reports and decide if ICF or Railway will chair it.

    Then setup another commission to revisit this commission till that time new government will come in and since we are global citizen wherever we decide to make it will be local.

    Better name a place outside India and start making there this way we will achieve Make in India.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here