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Vande Bharat Express team's 'Nambi Narayanan' moment

IANS | February 04, 2022 05:04 PM

CHENNAI: Present and past officials of Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here experienced space scientist 'Nambi Narayanan moment' when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced production of 400 Vande Bharat trains over the next three years.

The government has decided to invest Rs 140 crore in augmenting the facilities at ICF to roll out the Vande Bharat trains.

"It was like space scientist Nambi Narayanan's moment when the espionage charges against him were dismissed by the Supreme Court, " a senior official of Indian Railway told IANS preferring anonymity.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Supreme Court of India had junked the espionage charges against Indian space scientist S. Nambi Narayanan.

In 2018 when the ICF team that rolled out Train 18 later named as Vande Bharat Express was receiving bouquets for their success in rolling out the train in 18 months flat, they were subjected to a Railway vigilance probe.

The probe spoiled the career growth of officials while their juniors went up.

Later the charges against them proved to be false, but the damage for their career and the derailing of the prestigious project was accomplished.

"Officials are reluctant to touch the project. Unless there is an explicit direction from the top most officials the Vande Bharat train project will go slow, " a senior ICF official bemoaned to IANS.

"As the creator of the Vande Bharat trains/Train 18, it is a moment of great pride for me and the team which built the first rakes 2018-19, " Sudhanshu Mani, retired General Manager, Integral Coach Factory (ICF) told IANS on the Budget announcement.

Now an independent consultant, Mani added: "It is also a vindication for me and the team as the project had been dragged into an unnecessary controversy since early 2019 and things improved after the new rail minister took over."

Former ICF officials were of the view that importers' lobby were behind the vigilance probe that was initiated in connection with sourcing of items for Vande Bharat Express/Train 18.

Had it been any other country, the team that rolled out such a train ground up would have been celebrated. Certainly, the project team deserves a Padma award. But here the team were presented with a vigilance probe, a senior ICF official told IANS preferring anonymity.

A senior official in a big automobile company preferring anonymity told IANS: "Train 18 is not a small achievement. Putting together a team that conceived and delivered a state-of-the-art train-set in a mere 18 months is not easy. The intellectual property right (IPR) is owned by ICF. The semi high speed train has to run on existing tracks literally stretching the limits the tracks could withstand."

"At a speed of 180 kmph, even a slight undulation in the track could be magnified within the train. Hence the team had to pay a great deal of attention to wheels and suspensions. The dynamic forces at this speed could be very high, especially while negotiating the corners since the forces are proportional to the square of the train velocity. The team has paid attention to the stability of the train at such high speeds. Normal trains would be thrown-off curves at such high speeds, " the official added.

According to him, the train that was rolled out at just Rs 100 crore -- nearly at one third the cost of imported train-is a fine example of India's frugal engineering.

This was the first time a modern semi-high speed train was designed ground up in India by its own officials that is lightweight.

The train has an axle load of about 16.5 ton less than other trains.

Indian Railways is 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.

It is imperative for the country to become self-sufficient in trains as it is one of the largest operators in the world, officials said.

The Finance Minister Sitharaman's budget announcement about Vande Bharat trains seems to have put the train project back on the rails.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently told the Lok Sabha that to augment the infrastructural facilities at ICF for series production of Vande Bharat type coaches at an estimated cost of Rs 140 crore.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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