New Vande Bharat trains and a station renovation model are on the railway table

New world-class Vande Bharat trains, a new model for station redevelopment with private players, economies of scale in the freight business, and a foray into the global market with indigenous technology are among the plans Indian Railways is working on under new Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for a major turnaround.

Railways has overhauled the Vande Bharat project under Vaishnaw, according to officials, and future trainsets would have technological requirements that are an advance over the current Vande Bharat set — both in terms of passenger comfort and riding quality.

There has also been talk of exporting to the global market. According to officials, India is only the ninth country in the world to produce 180-kmph trains, and the Vande Bharat trainsets are now cheaper than their global counterparts.

The extensive station redevelopment project, which is being carried out in collaboration with private parties, is also being recast. According to reports, the Model Concession Agreement for it may be rewritten to make it more appealing to private parties as well as railways.

While only two companies applied for the first ever tender to run private passenger trains, it was determined to radically redesign the idea for greater success. Internally, Railways regards the tender results for the 12 clusters as a “good start.”

In the freight market, the Railways is now experimenting with a concept to reduce logistics costs and make its own freight fares more competitive. “By 2024, we want to push for maybe 3,000 million tonnes of freight moved every year, which is roughly three times the volume carried now,” a senior official said.

Railways will also create its own Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and roll it out through Indian manufacturing partners across 10,000 km to begin with, boosting indigenous manufacturing potential. The system, dubbed “Kavach,” will be a viable alternative to traditional in-cab signaling while simultaneously increasing network throughput, according to officials.

Vaishnaw is also said to have ordered a quick completion of the Mumbai-Ahmadabad project, particularly in Gujarat, where land acquisition is more or less complete compared to Maharashtra.

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