Architect of Vande Bharat Express seeks a working environment ‘free from fear’
The architect of Train 18 and Southern Railway’s Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer (PCME) Shubhranshu has called for a working environment that is “free from fear, suspicion and inter-departmental conflicts” to deliver Vande Bharat Express trains to the nation as desired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a letter to Chairman of the Railway Board V.K. Yadav, the officer said while Mr. Modi in his Independence Day address urged the Indian Railways to roll out more Vande Bharat Express trains for the people, the third rake itself of the iconic train was nowhere in sight.
Mr. Shubhranshu’s letter comes at a time when the making of Vande Bharat Express has come to a grinding halt at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai due to a variety of reasons, including allegations of one firm being favoured in the award of tenders and deviation of specifications set by the Research Design and Standards Organisation. Last month the Ministry of Railways directed the ICF to cancel all ongoing tender processes for the making of the flagship Train18 model rakes.
Mr. Shubhranshu had led the team of engineers that manufactured the first Train 18 in a record time of 18 months at a cost of ₹97 crore. The self-propelled train, which was later flagged off by the Prime Minister as the Vande Bharat Express between New Delhi and Varanasi in February this year, was celebrated as the most successful product of the Make in India initiative and also a game changer in Indian Railways.
“I am duty-bound to bring facts to your notice as the ex-PCME of ICF, who actually manufactured the first rake as envisioned by Sudhanshu Mani, the then General Manager of ICF…there seems to be a suggestion that a particular Indian firm was unduly favoured in the tenders. This is far from the truth. The tender which the Indian firm got for the electricals for the first two rakes was awarded on the lowest tender basis,” he said.
Reiterating that no compromise was made on safety or quality of Train18, Mr. Shubhranshu said the Vande Bharat Express had been running uninterrupted for eight months, a and had been in commercial service for six months without a single failure or unsafe situation which was not only an unprecedented feat for a single rake in service but testimony to the robustness of specifications, safety and reliability aspects of the train.
“To make things worse, a Vigilance enquiry has been launched in this indisputably successful project that in no way ranks even a shade lower than the Chandrayaan or Brahmos. I am sure ISRO or DRDO have not launched vigilance enquiries in their proud achievements…we all know that it is not the outcome of the enquiry that kills the spirit of innovation, risk-taking and out-of-box thinking. It is the process of enquiry that does it in ample measure,” the letter said.
Mr. Shubhranshu was also the first officer to flag the issue of a cash crunch in Southern Railways. He wrote two letters to the Railway Board explaining in detail how acute paucity of funds was threatening the continuance of On Board Housekeeping Services and other basic amenity activities to passengers on 110 long distance trains in the zone.
Southern Railway General Manager Rahul Jain also agreed with his point and sent a SOS. But soon after allocating ₹50 crore in the last minute to keep the services soon, the Ministry of Railways transferred Mr. Shubhranshu to the Rail Wheel Plant in Bihar. However, he is yet to be relieved from his present posting, railway sources said on Thursday.