The first consignment of Vande Bharat train wheels has been airlifted to India from Romania, sources said on Thursday, adding that the trial run of the train has been delayed due to roadblocks in the procurement of wheels from the war-torn Ukraine and it will now be conducted in August instead of later this month.
A batch of 128 Vande Bharat wheels were transported from Ukraine to its neighbouring Romania by road and these are now being airlifted to India.
These will reach Chennai airport in three lots. The first, of around 42 wheels, arrived on Wednesday. The other two will reach the city on May 13 and May 14, sources said.
From Chennai, the wheels will be taken to the Hyderabad-based Medha Servo Drives, which won the contract for designing and manufacturing propulsion, control and other equipment required for the production of 44 rakes of Vande Bharat-type trainsets.
The company has been asked to deliver the complete assembled bogie, not merely the design.
In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that 400 Vande Bharat trains will be manufactured in the next three years.
Introduced in 2019, the Vande Bharat semi-high speed trains have been a novelty so far. Two Vande Bharat trainsets, originally called Train 18, are currently running on Delhi-Varanasi and Delhi-Katra routes.
This also comes with a plan, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to run 75 Vande Bharat trains across India by Independence Day in 2023.
The original plan was to start rolling out these trains from May this year. The first one was scheduled to undergo testing and trials in May and the second in June. From August-September, five to seven trainsets will be produced per month in three production units: ICF Chennai, MCF Rae Bareli, and RCF Kapurthala, according to the plan.
Officials said that the railways is set to meet the target set by the prime minister with orders for wheels which were given to a company based in Ukraine company being routed to other companies. These wheels will land in India soon, they said.
“Work is going on simultaneously at different production units and since the other parts are already here, there should not be any further delays. In fact, we think we will achieve the target well before August 15 next year,” an official said.
These new trains will have improvements in terms of better seating, anti-bacterial system in AC, less noise, and the ability to hit 160 km/hour in 140 seconds.