in-PM Modi flags off Vande Bharat trainset

The production build of Vande Bharat trainsets is now entering service, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating several new routes from Mumbai and Kolkata in recent weeks.

INDIA: A consortium of Russia’s Transmashholding and public sector utility Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd has been named low bidder for a contract to manufacture and maintain a fleet of 200 third-generation Vande Bharat semi-high speed trainsets for Indian Railways.

Unlike the first and second-generation trainsets which have only seating accommodation for use on routes up to about 500 km, these sleeping car trainsets are intended to replace IR’s loco-hauled Rajdhani Express trains, which provide overnight services on inter-city routes across the network. They would be designed to operate at speeds up to 180 or 200 km/h.

The TMH-RNVL bid equates to Rs1·2bn for a fleet of 16-coach steel bodied trainsets, well below IR’s target price of Rs1·3bn. Another consortium of state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd and Titagarh Wagons was second-lowest bidder, with an offer of Rs1·398bn per train. In line with the tender conditions, this consortium is expected to be given an opportunity to match the lowest bid in order to take a share of the work.

According to IR, 120 sets will be assembled at the Marathawad Rail Coach Factory in Latur, Maharashtra, and 80 at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai. The budget of Rs580bn for the procurement is divided into Rs260bn to be paid on delivery, and Rs320bn for the maintenance element over 35 years. The trains are expected to be based at six to eight depots in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Jodhpur.

Tenders were invited in April 2022, and the technical bids were opened on November 30, after three extensions of the bidding period. The five bidders were Alstom Transport India and five consortia: TMH-RVNL, Titagarh Wagons with BHEL, Hyderabad-based Medha Servo Drives with Stadler and Siemens with Bharat Earth Movers Ltd.

Unlike the earlier contracts for the supply of traction equipment for the second-generation trains now being rolled out, the technology partners are expected to be awarded contracts for both supply and manufacture of the complete trains, as well as their subsequent maintenance.

Although the trains are to be assembled at IR’s existing plants, MoR expects the private companies to install new workshop equipment and has agreed to reimburse the related costs. IR staff would be deployed to build the trains under the ‘supervision and control’ of the technology partner.


Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai to see the Vande Bharat trainsets under construction.

Aluminium-bodied trains

Meanwhile, Alstom and a partnership of Stadler and Medha have reportedly qualified for the technical element of a contract to manufacture and maintain 100 fourth-generation Vande Bharat trainsets, for which bids were called in July 2022. IR intends to evaluate the technical bids which were submitted on February 23 before calling financial bids. According to IR officials, the winning bidder would receive an upfront payment of Rs130bn upon delivery of the trains, with an additional Rs170bn to be paid for maintenance over a 35-year period.

These lightweight sleeping car sets will be designed for a maximum speed of over 200 km/h, and will have aluminium bodyshells, potentially allowing formations of up to 20 coaches. At present India has no experience of manufacturing aluminium trains, and the project is expected to enable transfer of this technology to the local supply chain.

Alstom and Stadler have reportedly asked for further evaluation of the technical bids, expressing concern about the capability of some other local partners. Another aspect being highlighted is the requirement for continuous participation of consortium members over a nine-year contract period, with commentators noting that BEML is currently envisaged for divestment, with TMH cited as a potential purchaser.

Roll-out ramps up

While tendering for the next generation trains is underway, IR is ramping up series production of the Vande Bharat 2.0, which was derived from the two Train 18 prototypes developed at ICF. Following the success of these trains on services from New Delhi to Varanasi and Katra, the Indian Railway Board approved the production of additional trains in December 2019.

In January 2021 Medha was awarded a Rs22·1bn contract to supply equipment for 44 second-generation trainsets — 24 to be assembled at ICF and 10 each at the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala and the Modern Coach Factory at Raebareilly. Bids for an additional 58 were called in August 2021, and in March 2022 IR awarded contracts to seven suppliers to share the work. ICF would supervise the assembly of 26 sets using Medha propulsion systems, four with BHEL equipment and one each with components from CGL, Saini Electricals, and Titagarh Wagons. Siemens would supply the propulsion equipment for 16 trains to be assembled at MCF and Alstom would equip the nine to be built at RCF.

With production ramping up, ICF is expected to turn out new trainsets at the rate of two or three per month, while RCF and MCF are expected to complete 10 sets each in the current financial year.

The Vande Bharat 2.0 trainsets are lighter than the prototypes, weighing 392 tonnes, compared to 430 tonnes. They also have a larger driving cab and an improved air-conditioning system which consumes 15% less energy; as well as automatic plug doors and reclining seats throughout. The trains are also being equipped with IR’s Kavach train protection system.


Vande Bharat services from Mumbai CST to Solapur and Sainagar Shirdi were introduced on February 10.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in August 2021 that 75 trains would be operational across the country by August 2023. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved funding for the manufacture of 400 more Vande Bharat trains by 2025. According to Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw, ‘the target of having 475 Vande Bharat trains is on track. We will be achieving the entire target in the coming three years.’