ICF to Manufacture First Locally-Made Bullet Trains for Mumbai-Ahmedabad Corridor

In a significant development, the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai has been tasked by the Indian Railways to manufacture two standard-gauge bullet trains domestically, marking India's first foray into producing high-speed rail capable of reaching up to 250 kilometers per hour (kmph). This initiative comes as negotiations with Japanese suppliers over pricing have stalled, according to informed officials.

The two trainsets are slated for deployment on the ambitious Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail corridor, a pivotal part of India's high-speed rail aspirations. Traditionally, the procurement of such advanced rolling stock has relied heavily on foreign suppliers. However, the current impasse in price negotiations with a consortium comprising Japanese companies Hitachi and Kawasaki has prompted Indian Railways to explore local manufacturing solutions.

ICF, renowned for developing the Vande Bharat trains, will adapt the existing Vande Bharat platform to expedite the production of these bullet trains. Each trainset will consist of eight cars, feature a steel car body, and operate at a running speed of 220 kmph, with a maximum speed capability of 250 kmph. The use of the Vande Bharat platform is expected to streamline the production process, although experts caution that achieving the target within the current fiscal year presents a formidable challenge.

The order for these trainsets was officially placed earlier this week, signaling a major push to accelerate the project despite the tight timeline. The decision underscores the urgency in advancing the high-speed rail corridor, which has already faced significant delays, primarily due to land acquisition hurdles in Maharashtra.

The original plan for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor included sourcing trainsets directly from Japanese manufacturers, supported by a substantial financial package from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provided Rs 59,396 crore for the project. However, protracted price negotiations and revised cost estimates Rs 460 crore per trainset in 2023, up from Rs 389 crore in 2018 have complicated procurement efforts.

Sudhanshu Mani, the retired Indian Railways official credited with developing the Vande Bharat trains, expressed skepticism about the feasibility of meeting the supply deadline. According to Mani, while the Vande Bharat trains currently have a top speed of 180 kmph, reaching the 250 kmph mark within the stipulated timeframe will be a significant technical and logistical endeavor, likely requiring three to four years.

As Indian Railways grapples with these challenges, the push to locally manufacture these high-speed trains represents a strategic shift aimed at reducing dependence on foreign technology and enhancing domestic capabilities. If successful, this initiative could pave the way for future high-speed rail projects across India.