Vande Bharat trains: Potential and Challenges – Explained, pointwise

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The Vande Bharat trains have emerged as a potential game-changer in the Indian railway system, offering high-speed and comfortable travel experiences. With their modern design, indigenous manufacturing, and emphasis on the Make in India initiative, these trains showcase India’s technological advancements. They have achieved notable milestones, such as being the fastest train in the country and reducing travel time between cities. However, the expansion of Vande Bharat trains faces challenges, including joint venture issues, sanctions impacting spare parts availability, and production delays. Addressing these challenges is crucial to unlock the full potential of Vande Bharat trains in transforming India’s rail network.  

What are the Vande Bharat trains?

Vande Bharat trains specifications
Source: News18
Read here: Explained: Fast-tracking Vande Bharat

What is the need for Vande Bharat trains?

Insufficient capacity: The Indian railways face the challenge of inadequate infrastructure to meet the growing demands of passenger and freight transportation. This results in congestion, delays, and suboptimal utilization of resources.  

Aging infrastructure: Many rail tracks, bridges, and stations are in need of repair and modernization due to age and lack of maintenance. This affects the safety, speed, and efficiency of train operations.  

Accidents and derailments: Safety remains a significant issue for Indian railways, with occasional accidents and derailments. Factors such as outdated signaling systems, inadequate maintenance, and human errors contribute to these incidents.  

Outdated technology: The use of outdated signalling systems, manual ticketing processes, and limited adoption of modern technologies hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of railway operations.  

Limited automation: The Indian railways are yet to fully embrace automation in various processes, such as ticketing, maintenance, and scheduling, which could improve operational efficiency.  

Cleanliness and hygiene: Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in trains and stations remains a concern, impacting the overall customer experience.  

Read more: 102 Vande Bharat trains to be operational by 2024

What are some achievements of Vande Bharat trains?

Semi-high speed travel: Vande Bharat trains are India’s first semi-high speed trains, designed to operate at speeds up to 160 kmph. The aerodynamic design helps the train reach 0-100 kmph in just 52 seconds, whereas other trains in the world takes upto 60 seconds. This allows for faster travel times and improved connectivity between cities.  

Indigenous manufacturing: The Vande Bharat trains are manufactured in India, showcasing the country’s capabilities in indigenous manufacturing. The trains are produced at Indian factories like the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, promoting the “Make in India” initiative and supporting the growth of the domestic manufacturing sector.  

Technological advancements: Vande Bharat trains incorporate advanced technologies and modern features to enhance passenger comfort and safety. These include features like automatic doors, regenerative braking, and state-of-the-art passenger amenities.  

National and international recognition: These trains have showcased India’s capabilities in manufacturing and implementing cutting-edge railway technology, reinforcing the country’s position as a global player in the industry. 

What are the potential benefits of Vande Bharat trains?

Boost to tourism and local economy: The introduction of Vande Bharat trains has the potential to stimulate tourism and boost local economies along their routes. For example, increased connectivity through Vande Bharat trains has led to improved accessibility to tourist destinations like Shirdi, promoting tourism and benefiting local businesses.  

Environmental sustainability: Vande Bharat trains contribute to environmental sustainability by incorporating energy-efficient technologies and reducing carbon emissions. These trains help in achieving a greener and more sustainable transportation system.  

Employment generation: The manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of Vande Bharat trains generate employment opportunities. This includes skilled labor in manufacturing units, onboard train staff, and station personnel, contributing to job creation and economic growth.  

Cultural exploration: Vande Bharat trains facilitate travel and exploration, allowing passengers to experience the diverse cultural heritage of India. By connecting various cities and regions, these trains enable tourists to explore different traditions and contribute to cultural exchange.  

Energy efficiency: Vande Bharat trains are designed to be energy efficient, contributing to environmental conservation and sustainability. The trains utilize regenerative braking, which helps in the efficient use of energy and reduces carbon emissions.  

Improved passenger experience: The trains offer a comfortable and modern travel experience for passengers, with features such as ergonomic seating, Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS-based passenger information systems, and modular toilets 

Must read: Locally made green trains to be rolled out

What are the challenges in Vande Bharat train expansions?  

Sanctions and international relations: The ongoing sanctions imposed on Russia following the Russia-Ukraine war have posed challenges for the Vande Bharat trains. These sanctions have affected the supply of spare parts from Western European and American manufacturers, hindering the smooth operation and maintenance of the trains.  

Majority shareholding dispute: There is a disagreement between the Russian transportation giant Transmashholding (TNH) and the Indian public sector undertaking Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) regarding the majority shareholding issue for the joint venture (JV) to manufacture Vande Bharat Express train sets. This dispute has led to delays and uncertainty in the expansion plans.  

Production delays and capacity shortfall: The Kapurthala Rail Coach Factory, responsible for manufacturing Vande Bharat trains, has faced challenges in meeting production targets. Shortages of raw materials, supply chain disruptions, and delays in the approval of designs has resulted in the factory’s failure to deliver the targeted number of trains, leading to delays in expansions.  

Operational and maintenance costs: Operating and maintaining Vande Bharat trains involve significant costs, including training staff, ensuring spare parts availability, and implementing regular maintenance schedules. Managing these costs while ensuring efficient operations and high-quality services poses a challenge in the expansion process.  

Passenger demand and occupancy: While Vande Bharat trains have been popular among passengers, managing the demand and ensuring optimal occupancy rates can be challenging. Balancing the number of trains and frequencies with passenger demand requires careful planning and analysis.  

Weather and operational challenges: Operating Vande Bharat trains in challenging weather conditions, such as during the monsoon season or on steep gradients, can pose operational challenges. Special considerations and precautions need to be taken to ensure the trains’ safe and reliable operations under such conditions.  

Read more: Explained: Fast-tracking Vande Bharat

What should be done?

Resolution of shareholding dispute: The Indian government and the involved parties, Transmashholding (TNH) and Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), should work towards resolving the majority shareholding dispute in the joint venture. Finding a mutually acceptable solution will help establish clarity and facilitate smoother progress in the manufacturing and expansion of Vande Bharat trains.  

Mitigating the impact of sanctions: Efforts should be made to mitigate the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia by diversifying the supply chain for spare parts. Exploring alternative suppliers from countries unaffected by the sanctions can ensure consistent availability of necessary components for the Vande Bharat trains.  

Strengthening manufacturing capabilities: The Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, and other relevant manufacturing units should focus on enhancing their production capacities and streamlining their processes. This includes addressing issues related to raw material availability, supply chain management, and timely approvals of designs to meet the production targets and support the expansion plans.  

Continuous training and skill development: Training programs should be conducted for staff involved in operating, maintaining, and servicing Vande Bharat trains. Continuous skill development and knowledge enhancement will ensure that the workforce is equipped to handle advanced technology and provide efficient services.  

Effective demand management: A comprehensive analysis of passenger demand patterns should be conducted to optimize train frequencies, routes, and capacity.  

Weather-resilient designs: Considering the challenges posed by weather conditions, incorporating weather-resilient designs and features in Vande Bharat trains will enhance their operational reliability. This includes addressing concerns related to waterlogging, ensuring safety during monsoons, and facilitating smooth operations on steep gradients. 

Read more: Not by ‘Vande Bharat’ alone

SourcesThe Hindu, Business Standard, Hindustan Times (Article 1 and Article 2), Livemint and The Wire.

Syllabus: GS – 3: Economic development: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

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