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'Disclosure of prices reason for scrapping Vande Bharat trains tender'

Two days after the Indian Railways cancelled its global tender for manufacturing 44 sets of semi-high speed Vande Bharat trains, a top railway official said that the disclosure of prices offered by prospective bidders at the technical qualification stage for manufacturing these trains was the reason behind scrapping of the tender.

Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said the tender invited two packet bids — technical bids and financial bids. First, the technical bids are opened and evaluated after which the financial bids of only those bidders who qualify in the technical bids are opened.

"To have transparency in evaluation, while evaluating the technical bids, financial bids are not available to the Tender Evaluation Committee. While evaluating the technical bids of train set tenders, the committee has noticed that some of the details of financial offers have been revealed in the first packet i.e. technical bids," he said at a virtual press conference.

"To maintain complete transparency, the tender committee has recommended to cancel this tender and invite fresh tenders. The Tender Accepting Authority i.e . General Manager ICF has accepted the recommendations of Tender Committee. Fresh tenders will be invited within a week," Yadav said.

The chairman also said that three companies had made the error of mentioning the price of the products they were to supply and explanations have been sought from them.

The Railway Ministry, while cancelling the tender, in a statement had said that it was being done to make way for a fresh tender adhering to new public procurement policy of the government vis-a-vis Make in India.

Last month, when the tender was opened, Chinese joint-venture firm "CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Ltd had emerged as the only foreign player among the six contenders for the supply of electrical equipment and other items for the 44 train sets of 16 coaches each.

The joint venture was formed between China-based CRRC Yongji Electric Company Ltd and Gurugram-based Pioneer Fil-med Private Ltd in 2015.

"Fresh tender will be floated within a week as per Revised Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) order. As a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, increases in indigenous content from the present level of 50 per cent to a higher level is being examined," Yadav said.

The fresh tender will have provision to manufacture Vande Bharat Train sets at all the three Production Units of Indian Railways — ICF , MCF and RCF – he said adding that the timeline for manufacturing of these train sets will be compressed.

Indian Railways' Integral Coach Factory in Chennai had floated the tender for manufacturing 44 rakes of Vande Bharat trains in July.

The other five bidders were the state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, the Bharat Industries in Sangrur, the Electrowaves Electronics (P) Ltd, the MEDHA Servo Drives Private Ltd and the Powernetics Equipment India Private Ltd, according to the railway ministry.

Train 18 was manufactured by ICF, which is owned by the Indian Railways, with over 80 per cent indigenous materials and was rolled out in October 2018 amidst much fanfare.

The train was later re-christened as Vande Bharat Express and was introduced between New Delhi and Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency, in February last year.

In October last year, the second Vande Bharat Express train was introduced between New Delhi and Katra.

In November 2019, the railway board gave a go-ahead to the ICF to resume manufacturing of the semi high-speed trains. Subsequently, the ICF had called for bids for procuring electric traction kits for 44 train sets.

In December last year, Indian Railways had planned to complete the production of 44 more new rakes on India's 75th Independence Day. All the coaches of Vande Bharat Express have a stainless steel car body equipped with automatic doors with sliding footsteps, on-board computers for train control and remote monitoring. The coaches also have a GPS-based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot WiFi and comfortable seating arrangements..