The government intends to accelerate the rollout of semi-high-speed, next-generation Vande Bharat trains and is expected to announce 300-400 new trains in the union budget proposals for FY24, according to railway ministry officials familiar with the development.
Officials also stated that the budget may increase gross budgetary support for the national transporter from the 1.37 trillion allocated in the budget for FY23, bringing government support for railways to its highest level ever. The budget support for the current fiscal year increased by 28% from $1.07 trillion in 2021-22.
The government intends to gradually replace all existing high-speed trains, including the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, with the Vande Bharat, which will increase the speed to more than 180 kmph on all major routes from the current maximum of 160 kmph on limited routes.
To be sure, approximately 100 Vande Bharat trains are expected to be produced in the coming fiscal year.
However, the announcement of 300-400 means that production facilities will be ready to produce more in subsequent years, according to officials. This will not only help equip these modern trains for longer domestic journeys but will also allow them to be exported, they added.
This will put India on par with the other eight countries that can produce trains with speeds of 180 kmph or higher.
Railway minister Ashwani Vaishnaw stated that by FY26, India will begin exporting Vande Bharat trains and will also have a standard-gauge train in its portfolio, which is widely used globally.
“We want to showcase the technology to the world by running at least 100 Vande Bharat trains for 10-12 lakh kms over a one-year period. This proves the credibility of the technology and help it compete in the global market,” the minister said.
In Rajasthan, testing tracks for both broad and standard gauge Vande Bharat trains are being laid near Jodhpur.
The trains will be tested at speeds of up to 220 kilometers per hour. This would be an ideal testing ground for markets in Europe, Latin America, and East Asia that are interested in purchasing cutting-edge trains at low prices, according to Vaishnaw.
The minister also stated that, in order to meet the demand for these trains, railway production facilities are being expanded and new facilities are being built.
A sleeper version of the train, in addition to standard chair cars, is proposed for launch in January-March 2024. The Railways is also developing a ’tilting version’ of the Vande Bharat, which would allow these trains to be introduced in older rail networks with numerous curves.
The Railways may soon enter into a technology partnership with global players such as Spanish Talgo trains, Bombardier, and Alstom for this tilting version. Its own research is also helping to advance technology.