Chinese state-owned CRRC Corporation has emerged as the only foreign player for the Railways' global tender for its ambitious semi-high speed indigenous Train 18 project, officials revealed on Friday.
CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Limited, whose bid for the project is a joint venture of the Chinese firm CRRC Corporation Ltd with a Gurugram-based company according to its website, is one of the six contenders for the tender for procuring propulsion systems or electric traction kits for 44 trains to function as the Vande Bharat Express or Train 18.
The other contenders include Bharat Heavy Electricals, Hyderabad-based Medha Group, Electrowaves Electronic Pvt Ltd and Mumbai-based Powernetics Equipments Pvt Ltd.
Officials said going by the cost of manufacturing the first Train 18 which was launched last year at an expense of Rs 100 crore out of which Rs 35 crore was for the propulsion system alone, the present tender for 44 such kits would be worth over Rs 1,500 crore.
"We have got bids from six players for the train set tender," said Vinod Kumar Yadav, chairman of the Railway Board.
This current tender was floated on December 22 last year by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, and was opened on Friday. It is the third such tender floated for these trains.
Floated under the Make in India initiative, the tender was for the supply of electrical equipment and other items for 44 train sets of 16 coaches each.
The first one was for 43 sets. Orders for only three were given, including one for Spanish major CAF and Medha Group that supplied for the first Train 18 which was christened Vande Bharat Express.
Then a second tender was floated for 37 Train 18 propulsion systems which was cancelled.
Surprisingly, major players like Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, CAF, Talgo and Mitsubishi did not participate in the bids.
The emergence of a Chinese company for these train sets being promoted as indigenous products comes after a violent face-off between India and China in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh last month.
Following a standoff with the neighbouring country, the national transporter cancelled a Rs 471-crore signalling and telecommunication work for a stretch of 417-km on the Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) section by a Chinese company and also scrapped a tender for thermal screening cameras after Indian vendors complained of the bid document favouring the Chinese.
Officials say it might take at least two-and-a-half years for the next Train 18 to be manufactured, thus causing delay in the target set by Railways Minister Piyush Goyal who had said that the plan was to produce 160 coaches in 2019-20, 240 coaches in 2020-21 and 240 coaches in 2021-22 at the ICF in Chennai.
All coaches in these trains will be Chair Car type for day travel. They will be provided with cab AC, fully air-conditioned passenger compartment with vestibule arrangement, automatic plug doors with retractable footsteps, automatic intercommunication door, in-coach displays, speakers, side destination boards, luggage racks with reading lamps, direct lighting and diffused lighting (for luggage racks), continuous LED light fixtures, modular pantry equipments and GPS antenna in all coaches, Mobile/laptop charging sockets in the passenger seats, CCTVs and Emergency talk back units with networking system in all coaches.