Just how delayed is Mumbai’s air-conditioned (AC) suburban train project? If replies given to dna by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai are anything to go by, then the project has been six years in the making. And just about no railway official is willing to hazard a guess on when the project, which comprises making 10 such AC rakes, will be completed.
According to railway ministry documents, the AC suburban rake project started way back in 2010 under the guardianship of the Railway Board’s Electrical Engineering (Development) directorate.
The start was a good one with a Railway Board letter of acceptance way back on November 23, 2010, finalising the purchase of 40 traction motors – the heart of the rake – for all 10 rakes at one go. The cost for these motors – four for each of the 10 rakes – was set at Rs167.47 crore excluding taxes and duties. On the same day, a purchase order worth Rs7 crore for other electrical equipment for the first rake was also finalised.
The delays started soon after. The ICF-Chennai, which built the AC rake, was told to proceed on a project by the railway board to build the rake on June 5, 2012, almost two years after the project was envisaged.
By 2013, the electrical sets for the first AC rake were sent to Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) by Netherlands-based Strukton Rail. However, work on the AC rake started more than a year later in August 2014 at ICF-Chennai. On December 8, 2015 the electrical sets for the second rake was also sent by Strukton to BHEL.
On March 31 this year, almost two years after the physical construction of the AC rake began, the ICF-Chennai dispatched the first rake to Mumbai. It arrived at Central Railway’s Kurla Carshed on April 5. According to ICF Chennai documents, the rake was finally constructed at a cost of Rs51.42 crore.
The AC rake is currently awaiting trial. The future of the AC rake project is now without any deadlines for the future. In a reply to dna on the production schedule for future AC rakes, ICF stated that ‘further manufacturing will be decided based on the performance of the trials’.
Unfortunately, this is the fate of every new development in the Indian Railways. They just seem to lack the ability to bring in improvements in an acceptable time frame. The system is riddled with bureaucracy, red tape, infighting between departments etc.