Launch of Train 18
In October 2018, Train 18 which can attain a semi-high-speed (of 160 kmph-200 kmph speed) was rolled out in a short span of 18 months. If Chandrayaan-2 brought India close to joining the select band of three countries in the world to have successfully achieved a soft landing on the moon, Train 18 propelled India into the exclusive club of about a half a dozen countries in the world that have the capability to produce a brand new design of a high-speed/semi-high-speed train set in such a short time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in February 2019, flagged off the inaugural run of the Train 18 as ‘Vande Bharat Express’ in Varanasi.
What issues have emerged now?
- Following top-level changes in the Railway Board at the turn of the New Year, a vigilance investigation was launched into certain alleged procedural irregularities and allegations of undue favours shown to a particular indigenous firm in awarding contracts for the crucial propulsion system. It was also reported that deviations had been observed from the specifications prescribed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
- Meanwhile, the man who had spearheaded the Train 18 project — from its conception and design to its launch — as General Manager of Integral Coach Factory (ICF) and who retired at the end of last year, was not even extended an invitation for the train’s ceremonial inaugural run in February 2019.
- With the train set’s production having come to a halt in ICF, Chennai, despite tenders having been floated, Project 18 is as good as dead now.
Breach of specifications
Indian Railways operates normally in ‘maintenance mode’ to keep the wheels of the railway network moving as efficiently as possible with the least disruption. This aim is achieved through more than a dozen functional departments that normally work in close coordination. Only certain specific projects or initiatives are undertaken in ‘mission mode’. The Train 18 project was one such undertaking that required the planners to cut red tape and reduce needless procedural hassles. It is likely that in the process, certain ‘sacrosanct’ boundaries of departmental silos were breached for no other reason than to speed up decision-making.
Source: The Hindu