NEW DELHI (Metro Rail News): Railway sources said on Friday that the top officials of the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here who were part of the team that built Train 18, later flagged off as Vande Bharat Express by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been booked by the Vigilance Directorate of the Railway Board on charges of procedural flaws.
Vigilance officials served questionnaires on the former ICF officials — General Manager (retired) Sudhanshu Mani, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineers L.V. Trivedi and Shubhranshu, Chief Design Engineers (Electrical) D.P. Dash and Vavre, Chief Design Engineer (Mechanical) Srinivas, and Kanwaljeet Asla, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer and others who are presently serving in other positions, the sources said.
These officials played a key role in developing the Train18 that was rolled out in a record 18-month time. The self-propelled train set, comprising 16 air-conditioned coaches, was built at a cost of ₹100 crores, about half the estimated cost of importing such a rake, with about 80% indigenous components in alignment with the Prime Minister’s call for ‘Make in India’.
The sources said, while the train is operating without any glitch between New Delhi and Varanasi since February this year, issues over violation of certain procedures cropped up resulting in the project getting shelved at the ICF.
Vigilance officials took away huge volumes of files pertaining to the making of Train18 a few months for investigation and top officials who were part of the ambitious project were transferred out. Tenders floated by ICF to build more rakes of Vande Bharat Express were canceled. However, the Ministry of Railways made it clear that more Train18 type rakes will be available soon.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the Lok Sabha a couple of days ago that the ICF would manufacture 740 coaches of Train18 in 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22. On Friday, Mr. Goyal replying to a question said that there was no question of closing down the ICF. “We are very proud of the achievements of ICF. Their engineers and workers made Vande Bharat, the first semi-high speed train that India has ever made in its 168-year history. It is a jewel in the crown and there is every effort to grow, expand and modernize the company.”
Vigilance officials are now probing allegations that the tender for making the first Train18 set was awarded to a firm in violation of certain norms and also that the development team compromised on the safety of the train by not obtaining technical approval for the electrical systems from the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow. The RDSO is a standardization organization of the Indian Railways.
The sources said, Amid reports that protocol issues between officers of the Mechanical and Engineering departments were the main reasons why the production of Train18 came to a grinding halt, the Ministry of Railways has constituted a committee of Additional Members of the Railway Board to sort out the differences between the two departments and bring about a working synergy. The findings and recommendations of the high-level committee were not made public, the sources added.