With the production of the third Train 18 unit virtually stopped over allegations of favouritism in the tendering process of the first train set, the railways on Tuesday said it has introduced a new system for giving all bidders a level playing field and ensuring transparency.
Officials said the manufacturing process for the third Train 18 set, or Vande Bharat Express, would go on now with the new tendering process in place.
Earlier, stung by allegations of favouritism in the tendering process for manufacturing the first Train 18 set, which was rolled out earlier this year, the Integral Coach Factory had scrapped all existing tenders for the third rake.
A second Train 18 set is ready and is likely to be launched next month on the Delhi-Katra route.
Officials said the new tendering process gives vendors three months to apply for bids instead of the present three weeks.
It makes it mandatory for the production units to follow Research Design and Standards Organisation, which functions as a technical adviser and consultant to the railways, specifications while issuing a tender, which was not followed by the ICF during manufacturing of first Train 18 set.
"This will bring in more transparency and also give all parties a level playing field," an official said.
The first rake of Train 18 was manufactured in a record time of just 18 months at a cost of about Rs 97 crore.
However, the ministry received around 25 complaints from vendors and multinational companies that a domestic private firm was allegedly favoured in the procurement process for electrical equipment for the train set.
During the bidding process for the first rake, 18 companies were in the fray for supplying electrical equipment. Eight of these firms were Indian.
However, only one consortium could make it on the last day of the tender submission, February 6, 2018, due to "certain pre-bidding conditions", sources said, though they did not elaborate.
This led to the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) red-flagging the process. And the manufacturing of the third train virtually stopped with a vigilance enquiry at the Integral Coach Factory underway.
Not just the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, but the Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareli, also cancelled all tenders pertaining to Vande Bharat Express type of rakes, suburban trains such as Electric Multiple Units (EMU), Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU) and Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) as well.
An official said, "We want to offer a level playing field to all suppliers to participate in the making of these trains which will not only have high quality but (will be produced with) much greater transparency."
The Railway Board in a recent meeting with top officials and leading manufacturers of propulsion systems discussed the new timelines to invite wider participation, another official said.
"The Board met train set manufacturers and informed them that train sets could only be procured from them if the demand exceeds the manufacturing capacity of railways' production units," the senior ministry official said.
The ICF has been sanctioned to manufacture 40 Vande Bharat train sets over the next three years – 10 in 2019-20 and 15 each in the next two years.