Corporatisation of railway production units would succeed only if the government buys the trains from them and not resort to imports at least for initial couple of years, said a senior official of Indian Railways.
The central government had announced its plans to corporatise the seven production units of railways under one head to be called Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company (IRRSC).
“As was followed in the western economies and others, Indian government should first proliferate the domestic market with indigenously produced trains like Train 18,” the official preferring anonymity said. “This will enable domestic industry to scale up and, in the process, cut costs. We will be a laughing stock if the Indian Railway Rolling Stock goes out and bid for international projects when there are no sufficient reference numbers,” he said.
According to him, the railway production units are now part of the government and has its own costing structure and it takes time to look and rework the costing structure once the units are corporatised.
Citing the hi-tech train Vande Bharat/Train 18 designed, developed and built at Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, the official said the government should proliferate this train in large numbers within India rather than going in for imports.
With Indian Railways one the largest railway network operators in the world running about 15,000 trains daily and carrying millions of passengers across the length and breadth of the country, an official said that it is imperative for the country to become self-sufficient in trains.
“The supply of 50 trainsets to Indian Railways per year will result in creation of high-paying jobs as well as several spin-off benefits. About 10,000 new jobs could be created,” the officer said.
“The global railway industry size is about $200 billion. Out of that, tracking and signaling systems are expensive. Most of the demand for railway sector and trains are from Asia (China, India and others) and Africa. China makes its own trains. That leaves out Southeast Asia, East Asia, Bangladesh. We are exporting to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Jordan and others,” he said.
According to him, the railway market is growing in Asia and Africa.
Speaking to reporters here in May this year, Rajesh Agrawal, Member (Rolling Stock), said some south-east Asian and South American nations have evinced interest in importing Train 18.
However, after fulfilling the needs of Indian Railways, the same will be considered, he added.
Meanwhile officials said, the work on rolling out Train 18 has come to a standstill, while the government is looking to import of train sets.
“I have learnt that an import proposal for sixty train sets have been made costing over twenty-five thousand crore rupees citing delay in production of Vande Bharat Express by ICF,” Shubhranshu, Chief Administrative Officer, Rail Wheel Plant, Bihar told V K Yadav, Chairman, Railway Board in a letter dated November 13.
According to him, the revised specifications for manufacture of Vande Bharat Express trains is very consulted making it difficult for procurement.
“A particular Directorate of RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organisation) has exceeded its brief and has included items to which likely bidders have formally objected to in writing. The revised specifications will, therefore, make the competition narrower and the playing field more uneven, the very shortcomings it was meant to eliminate,” Shubhranshu’s letter notes.
According to him, as per the current timeframe, the third Vande Bharat train will not be delivered before March 2023.