K. V. RAMESH Sr. Joint General Secretary – Indian Railways Technical Supervisors Association (IRTSA)
Agreement for manufacturing of Vande Bharat Sleeper train sets by private companies inside ICF Chennai and MRCF Lathur and carrying out maintenance activities by private companies at Indian Railways Coaching depots utilizing Railway infrastructure and human resources.
- Conspicuous Features of contract
Contractors for manufacturing 200 train sets have been selected and Railway advised its production units to hand over some of their infrastructure to the private manufacturers. Selected contractors will manufacture total 200 Vande Bharat Train Sets of sleeper version (16 coach formation) at Indian Railways Production Units. Russia’s TMH & RVNL combine, lowest bidder at the cost of Rs.120 crore per train set will manufacture 120 train sets utilizing infrastructure at Marathwada Rail Coach Factory (MRCF) Lathur. Titagarh Rail Systems Ltd & BHEL, second lowest bidder will manufacture 80 train sets utilizing infrastructure at Integral Coach Factory (ICF) Chennai.Agreement is for design, manufacture, supply, testing and commissioning of 200 train sets spread over 3 to 5 years and maintenance thereof for a period of 35 years. Supplied train sets should be maintained in six to eight Government depots situated in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Jodhpur, etc. Civil infrastructure improvement and other requirements have to done by the bidders.For propulsion system, traction motors are to operate at the speed of 130 kmph or more. 25% of traction motors to operate the train at the speed of 176/160 kmph. It is pertinent to mention that design has been finalised by ICF Chennai which has been certified by RDSO. Train set has been already tested successfully for 180 kmph speed. Hence private players are not going to bring any new design or technologies.
Nine production units of Indian Railways CLW, BLW, ICF, RCF, MCF, RWF, DLMW, MRCF & RWF Bela are having the capacity to manufacture 10,000 coaches and 1000 locomotives per year. They enable Indian Railways for continuously upgrading its passenger coaches and locomotives according to the need and conditions of track, bridges, etc. Every Production Units of Indian Railways proved their worth and they are able to deliver all the needs of Indian Railways according to the dynamic changes. True to the basic character of Railways, PUs of Railways adopted to the changes according to the market’s demand. They have state of art manufacturing technologies & skilled human resources. These PUs are in possession of 9511.73 acre of land, well developed for factory infrastructure, staff colonies, schools, hospitals, sports complexes etc. List of Production units and land owned by them are given in annexure-1. All this infrastructure, developed since independence which is an integral part of Indian Railways, will be disintegrated and Indian Railways will made to depend only on private manufactures. Dependency only on private manufactures will hike the cost exorbitantly.
- Attempt to downsize ICF, only manufacturer of Vande Bharat train sets, to facilitate full outsourcingICF turned out 40 rakes of Vande Bharat express train sets (14 rakes with 16 coaches’ formation & 26 rakes with 8 coaches’ formation) up to Octobe 2023. Indigenously designed self-propelled train sets tested for a speed of 180 kmph which can be upgraded to 200 kmph. Train set is having many new features. Government is keen to introduce VB train sets across the nation within short period. For 100% in-house manufacturing (excluding propulsion system) of one 16 car rake of Vande Bharat rake, ICF needs (182 direct technicians + 27 supporting staff + 18 Technical Supervisors) 227 Group-C employees. But ICF not in a position to sanction any additional posts. Not even able to fill the existing vacancies in most wanted Technicians’ cadre. Hence ICF resorting to outsourcing equal to additional direct men power required without any addition to Technical Supervisors & supporting staff strength.ICF is having 22.2% of vacancy in technician category as on 01.09.2022.
To meet the growing demands of production and to make up the staff shortage, ICF is following the practice of out-sourcing production activities, cleaning and PCO activities. Outsourcing in production is done in four methods, 1) purchase as major sub-assemblies, 2) supply and installation, 3) work contract and 4) turn-key contract. ICF employees are not in agreement with these arrangements since they lead to taking away of existing work load, non-filling of sanctioned vacant posts, non-creation of new posts in proportion to work load, difficulty in completion of production schedule due to delay/failure in supply by private firms, lot of deficiencies in quality of the items and work which attracts many complaints, etc.
Getting work done from unskilled and untrained man power is a herculean task for Technical Supervisors and junior officers. Very often group of workers engaged by contractors get changed which put more strain on supervisors & the system. Firm getting the contract gives the work to their sub-contractors. Hence allotment of work, execution, supervision, quality control and maintaining schedule of production & maintenance has become major problem. By this method of complete outsourcing of existing VB manufacturing activities, no additional sanction of manpower and non-filling of even existing vacancies, Railways is creating a perfect ground to throw open well established infrastructure of ICF to a private manufacturer.
- Cost of purchase higher than ICF manufacturing cost even after sparing infrastructure, human resources & other facilities.Honorable Railway Minister in his reply in the parliament said that, as on 28th July, 2023, 50 Vande-Bharat train services are running on the Indian Railways, connecting states having Board Gauge (BG) electrified network and total funds utilised for manufacture of Vande Bharat trains is Rs 1343.72 Crores. These 25 rakes consist of 14 sixteen car rakes and 11 eight car rakes. Therefore, average cost of one Vande Bharat sixteen car rake will be around Rs.70 crores, which is much lesser than proposed purchase cost of over Rs.120 crores from private company. Benefit of reduction in the cost of production in the future will not be transferred to Railways as happened in the case of LHB coaches.Railway is going to pay higher cost even after sparing ICF infrastructure like, 40m X 250m factory shed, new wheel line, paint booth, commissioning shed, EOT cranes, space for day-to-day work stores, electricity, free compressed air, free drinking water, canteen facility, specified number of technician and technical supervisors, etc. Private players are free to use ICF design and drawings.
- Manufacturing of Vande Bharat Sleeper train sets by private company inside ICF
Comparison statement in a nut shell
- Maintenance fee & non-sanction of additional man power for maintenance of Vande Bharat Express train sets in coaching depots.Open line maintenance of Vande Bharat express rake includes, primary & secondary maintenance, terminal & sick line attention, material cell, Linen management, Bio-toilet in coaches, statistical work, OBHS, Coach watering, pest control, Waste Disposal, Pit line sweeping and drain cleaning, Security and locking of rakes and Mechanized Laundry. New work of maintaining propulsion system in the coaching depots should be carried out by competent and well-trained electrical technicians and technical supervisors of electrical department specially trained for this purpose. Railways has not posted any trained electrical technicians and technical supervisors for maintaining propulsion system in the coaching depots. There were some ad-hoc arrangements made which may not be able to sustain.Maintenance fee at the rate of 4.75% of train price for six different years, 3.75% for five different years and 2.75% for rest of the years will be paid by Government. In 35 years Railways contractors will get 112.25% of train price as maintenance fee!
On the basis of experience gained by the Northern Railways in maintaining two rakes of Vande Bharat expresses plying between NDLS-BSB and NDLS-SVDI, new yardsticks for the maintenance of Vande Bharat Express have been framed by Railway Board letter. Activities for outsourcing have also been identified and recommended in the proposed yardsticks of Vande Bharat Express. These yardsticks are combined for Mechanical, Electrical and Traction requirements. Requirement of staff & Technical supervisors has been derived by the committee for revision of yardsticks for coaching maintenance constituted by Railway Board. Requirement of staff and Technical Supervisors as per the committee’s recommendations is given in the table below, (As per Railway Board’s letter No.2000/M(C)/143/5, dated 16.06.2022.)
But, no Zonal Railways have created any post for maintaining semi-high speed VB express train sets consisting of many new features where all equipment kept underslung including the propulsion system. Insufficient and untrained staff will be threat for safe and punctual operation of VB express. By not adding sanctioned strength and imparting sufficient training, in open line coaching depots Railways is making a perfect ground to throw open well established infrastructure of coach maintenance to private operator.
- Manufacturing agreement with a company not met its delivery scheduleVerities of Distributed Power Rolling Stock (DPRS) coaches like EMUs, MEMUs, DMUs, SPART, DETC, SPIC, etc. are being manufactured by ICF and PUs of Railways. In the current production year ICF has to manufacture 859 DPRS coaches of various types. So far ICF could turn out only 136 DPRS coaches only. With only 42% of working days left in the current production year, ICF still has to manufacture 723 DPRS coaches, i.e., 84%, in all probabilities ICF may not able to meet its target. It is not because of ICF’s inefficiency, due to supply failure of electrics required for these DPRS coaches.A few private companies & BHEL are suppling electrics required for DPRS. These electric suppliers are not able to meet the delivery schedules and repeatedly failing. BHEL only PSE available in this field failed to meet its supply schedule in the past & now. BHEL is not able to get through RDSO certification process for electrics ordered for AC EMUs. While output of ICF is getting affected repeatedly because of continuous failures of electric suppliers including BHEL, awarding contract for whole manufacturing & maintenance of new Vande Bharat sleeper train sets to the bidder having BHEL as partner will not be a good decision.
- Mechanical workshops will be kept out of POH activities of Vande Bharat train sets.Indian Railways has 47 mechanical workshops spread across 16 zones of Indian Railways doing POH & rehabilitation of all coaching & wagon stocks including coaches for all types of self-propelled trains, POH of all types of locomotives, manufacturing of wagons and manufacturing & maintenance of 140T cranes. Some of these workshops manufacture bogies, springs, DEMUs, NG locos & coaches, etc. These 47 workshops are spread over 6848.5 acres of land. Some of them have been established in pre-independent era and some of them in the recent past. All the workshops have adopted for change according to the requirement dynamically. List of mechanical workshops and area under their possession is given in Annexure-2. Skill set, infrastructure, technologies, etc are being upgraded continuously in these workshops and they are ready to take any new workload. Well established network of mechanical workshops will lose their load in favour of private train manufactures.
- Railway men will lose their work load directlyTechnicians, Technical supervisors and supporting staff required for manufacture, coaching depot maintenance, daily maintenance and POH of 200 Vande Bharat Express train sets of 16 car formation is given in the table.
Load of 65,510 field level direct employees will be taken away by private train manufacturers. Prestigious semi-high-speed train set under untrained non-railway men will become major threat for safe running of trains. Any breach in punctuality due to privately maintained VB train sets will affect the punctuality of all trains running in that section.
- Harmful & Hazardous impact of manufacturing cum maintenance of VB train set for 35 years by private players.Allowing private passenger train manufacturers & maintenance in bits & pieces will jeopardize safe train operation. Private players will concentrate only on profit and to get the maximum return on investment as quickly as possible. As a result maintenance work will be compromised – especially for the tracks & rolling stocks – and there will be severe deterioration in the system. Rail operation will become unsafe because of lack of maintenance. Private players entry in train operation will only escalate the fare rates. This will have far-reaching impact on the society as a large section of the people is entirely dependent on Railways for sustaining their livelihood. All the revenue earning routes will be taken over by private operators and Railways will be left with loss making branch lines.Radical reform of allowing full private participation in Railways in UK was counterproductive and Government reversed its decision and brought back the Railways into public ownership. After independence, private railways were nationalized to build up the nation and to provide a cost-effective passenger and goods transport system, which brought India to what it is today. Allowing private train operators will be like going back one step in the course of history.
- ConclusionAgreement for manufacturing cum maintenance of Vande Bharat sleeper version Train sets should be withdrawn. Manufacturing of all types of Vande Bharat express train sets should be awarded to ICF and other Railway PUs and maintenance of them should be carried out in Indian Railways’ coaching depots.
Annexure – 1
List of Production units and land owned by them
Mechanical Workshops of Indian Railways