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Medha & Alstom shortlisted for making 100 Aluminium Vande Bharat trains

French railway major Alstom and the Medha-Stadler consortium, comprising Swiss railway rolling stock manufacturer Stadler Rail and Hyderabad-based Media Servo Drives, have submitted bids for the Rs 30,000 crore contract to produce and maintain 100 aluminum Vande Bharat trains for 35 years.

The winning bidder for the Rs 30,000 crore contract to manufacture and maintain 100 aluminum Vande Bharat trains will receive Rs 13,000 crore upon delivery, with an additional Rs 17,000 crore to be paid over 35 years for maintenance.

The Indian Railways is currently reviewing technical bids, with financial bids to be opened in the next 45 days. The tender document requires the successful bidder to produce a prototype of the sleeper class Vande Bharat train within 24 months.

Government officials had anticipated approximately five bids for the current tender, with companies such as Germany-based Siemens in partnership with BEML, Russian Transmashholding, and Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd among those expected to participate.

However, these companies ultimately did not bid, reportedly due to a lack of technical qualifications necessary to meet the bid’s requirements.

As one official noted, only a handful of companies in India possess the necessary coach-building capabilities for steel and aluminum bodies.

“Only a few companies in India have the coach-building capabilities in steel and aluminium bodies,” an official said.

In addition, officials have indicated that results from the bid to manufacture 200 Vande Bharat trains, which was issued in December, will be announced shortly.

“Financial bids are being evaluated, and we are endeavoring to distribute the bid across multiple players to expedite the production of Vande Bharat trains,” stated another railway ministry official.

The government has also announced that the deadline for submitting bids for the second tender to manufacture 100 aluminum trains is April 23.

The Indian Railways is targeting to roll out the first sleeper version of Vande Bharat train by the first quarter of 2024. Till now, the railways has awarded contracts for manufacture of 102 Vande Bharat trains which are all chair car.

The central government had in the Budget for 2021-22 set an ambitious target to manufacture 400 Vande Bharat trains in India by the end of 2024-25.

The Vande Bharat trains are expected to represent a significant upgrade from the existing premium Rajdhani Express service. The sleeper class variant of these trains will be utilized on overnight routes such as New Delhi-Patna and New Delhi-Lucknow.

After four years of intensive work and planning, India’s first and second Vande Bharat trains were launched as electric multiple units at semi-high speed in 2019 on the New Delhi-Varanasi and New Delhi-Katra in J&K routes, and were inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sudhanshu Mani, former general manager of Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, and the chief architect of India’s first Vande Bharat project, said manufacturers would need around two years to deliver the first train set. He added that it would take at least 5-6 years for Indian Railways to manufacture 400 Vande Bharat trains.

The Vande Bharat is a semi-high-speed train consisting of 16 self-propelled coaches, which eliminate the need for a separate locomotive. This system, known as distributed traction power, has become increasingly popular worldwide for passenger operations. Distributed power enables faster acceleration and deceleration compared to loco-hauled trains, which take longer to reach top speed or gradually slow down.

These trains feature improvements such as enhanced seating, an anti-bacterial system in the air conditioning, and the ability to accelerate to 160 km/h in just 140 seconds.