Train 18 – India’s first engine-less train is built by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) Chennai under Make in India Project in a short period of 18 months. This train was launched by ICF on Tuesday with the aim to cut down travel time by at least 10% on shorter routes.
According to Sudhanshu Mani who is the GM of ICF, the train set will not transform travel experience, but also coach manufacturing in the country.
Here’s an interview of Sudhanshu Mani with the leading Indian news portal TOI –
What is unique about the Train-18 experience?
Indians will soon get to travel in a train which has facilities on a par with flights. The plush interiors and compact toilets are world-class with touch-free fittings and vacuum system in aircraft. And all of this was built completely in India within 18 months; to build a similar train set, Train-20, foreign companies like Stradler, Siemens and Bombardier take three to four years.
What was the inspiration for the Train-18 idea?
For any developed rail network train sets is the natural step forward, as they cut down on travel time, are easy to turn-around at stations and have hassle-free maintenance. In India, this idea was debated for 20 years and became a victim of departmentalism in Indian Railways. But the more it is delayed, the more India will be left behind. I was determined to implement it and I realized that ICF was the right place to manufacture it as the staff and officers have the talent and enthusiasm and so went ahead with it.
What were the challenges in executing this idea?
There was a major doubt if this could be done without importing technology. Also, it had its share of naysayers in the Railway Board. A large part of the work was given to Indian companies which were challenged to finish the work at a record time and at competitive prices. Work which usually takes a year, was completed in four months. The railway minister and railway board chairman supported this initiative.
What upgradation can be expected for future rakes?
The exteriors and interiors are not yet of European standard. I’m not fully satisfied. The exterior should be as smooth as an automobile. These will be upgraded in future models.
What was the most difficult design element?
Seats. We wanted airline-like seats but realized that there are 500 aircraft in India, but none of the seats are made in India. So we had to import them from Spain. But we have ensured that two Indian companies, one in Chennai and another in Gurgaon, will learn and make similar seats and cater to the domestic airline industry. The challenge with the braking system, made by an Indian company, was to reduce the cost. They will be reducing the price for the upcoming third to the sixth rake.
ICF has the staff strength of 10,400, but a lot of work is outsourced to private firms. Is the government employee unable to deliver as well as the private agency?
There is no such shortcomings in the work of the government employee. Our plan is to not have a large workforce, but a competent and committed one. The staff strength is being reduced while production is going up. As far as outsourcing is concerned, it is equipment supply, installation and commissioning. We don’t want to get into a dispute between the supplier and ICF. ICF is also doing a lot of work in-house, for instance the Train-18 shell is made entirely by the staff.
Pictures: Train 18 – India’s first engine-less train
Image Source: In shorts
Interview Source: TOI