French railway major Alstom has emerged as the lowest bidder for manufacture and maintenance of 100 aluminium Vande Bharat trainsets, valued at Rs 30,000 crore, Business Standard has learnt.
The company, which is a major player in the Indian railway and urban transport sector, bid Rs 150.99 crore as the cost to manufacture one trainset, followed by a consortium of Swiss rolling stock company Stadler Rail and India’s Medha Servo, which quoted Rs 169.9 crore to build one trainset.
Technical bids for the tender were opened on February 23, with only these two players making it cut. According to estimates communicated by officials, the basic manufacturing cost would be paid upon delivery of the trainsets, while the remaining portion of close to Rs 17,000 crore would be paid for maintenance for a period of 35 years.
Alstom earlier this year lost out on the mega order for 200 stainless steel Vande Bharat trains. This nearly Rs 151-crore per trainset bid for aluminium Vande Bharat is Rs 30 crore more than the lowest bid made for each stainless steel Vande Bharat trainset, to be made by a consortium of Russia’s Transmashholding (TMH) and state-owned Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL).
“Alstom has quoted a price of Rs 30 crore more per train in this tender when compared to the stainless steel Vande trains. We will have to wait and see if that price increase is justified based on a higher speed capability of 200 kmph and energy efficiency. It must keep in focus that the Indian Railways has no track for this speed and it is not even planned, as of now,” said Sudhanshu Mani, former general manager at Integral Coach Factory and one of the core engineers behind Vande Bharat.
Earlier this year, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw flagged off India’s first aluminium rake built by Hindalco. According to railwaymen and experts, aluminium rakes are more competent to handle higher speeds and are lighter than stainless steel rakes.
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But Vande Bharat has completely different engineering requirements as compared to freight trains, and operates via distributed traction power through self-propelled coaches, requiring much more technical expertise to be manufactured.
“Another curious aspect is that Alstom has strategically quoted the bid with a lower price point for the aluminium trains as compared to its bid for steel trains. This means that the company pitched itself for winning the aluminium train order,” Mani said. Alstom was nowhere near the winning bid in the tender for the 200 trains earlier this year.
The tender for aluminium Vande Bharat trains saw a much different response from the Rs 58,000-crore tender opened earlier this year, which was a five-horse race.
Currently, Vande Bharat trains are running solely with seating facilities, which limits their ability to undertake long-distance journeys.
With 300 Vande Bharat trains in the pipeline now, the Indian Railways is likely to inch one step closer to introducing sleeper-class Vande Bharat trains, an announcement that Vaishnaw had made. The national transporter hopes to launch the first sleeper Vande Bharat in early 2024.