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Vande Bharat Express is a symbol of a resurgent and aspirational India

By Rahul Kamat,

Added 19 April 2023

The man who stood against stifling bureaucracy of Indian Railways and most importantly, a living example of how an honest & driven man can bring change to the system.

India's first indigenous semi-high-speed train has gained popularity among the citizens. Hailing the successful operation of Vande Bharat Express during the DisruptX talk at the Festival of Manufacturing, Sudhanshu Mani, the creator and innovator of the Vande Bharat Express train said that the manufacturing and production of blue and white colour trains have boosted the ‘Make In India' campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-ed government. "The production of Vande Bharat Express has added spin to the journey of India towards a self-reliant or Aatma Nirbhar Bharat," he added.

But the journey of creating Vande Bharat Express was not an easy cakewalk for Mani and his team. Ministry officials doubted our claims to develop a world-class train at one-third cost; they thought our claim was just a publicity stunt," Mani said.

During the interaction with the audience, he revealed that when he approached the then Chairman of the Railway Board. He pitched Train 18 to him and even assured him that the ICF team can manufacture a world-class train at one-third the cost of importing such a train from abroad.

"The Chairman was about to retire in about 14 months. Therefore, we had to lie to get the work done. We said that this train would be ready before his retirement and he will be the one to inaugurate it. While we knew that it was not possible to complete this work in such a short time," he added.

Despite all efforts, approval was not given. Not prepared to take no for an answer, Mani added, he caught hold of the official's feet and said he would let go only if he is permitted the project.

CREATING TRAIN 18

When the Railways was planning to import a semihigh-speed train in 2016, Mani became General Manager at the Integral Coach Factory Chennai. "I was posted as GM of ICF in 2016. Dream without a vision or a vision without action is meaningless," he said and further added: "I met the Chairman, Railway Board, and sought a fund of Rs 200 crore to manufacture a train."

As he proposed the idea of developing a semihigh-speed train with indigenous technology that could compete with the imported trains in terms of speed and quality while being cost-effective. Sudhanshu added, "This proposal was initially met with scepticism from the Railway Board officers, but with my persistence, the project was approved."

Finally, we got permission to make this train. As soon as it was approved, the whole team started working on it. It was a project, so it needed a name. That's when we named it "Train 18". Our hard work paid off when we made a train in 18 months that would have taken 3 years to make abroad. Later, it was named "Vande Bharat".

CHALLENGES

One of the biggest challenges was to prepare the frame of the semi-high speed bogies for Train 18. Mani found a company in Kanpur that could make the frame and handed it over to the Integral Coach Factory. A team of 50 railway engineers and 500 factory workers then worked continuously to design and prepare the prototype rack of Vande Bharat in just 18 months. 

Mani revealed that to make his dream of manufacturing a new train successfully, he undertook many efforts to bridge the gaps with a few simple acts. "I went through the factory and met the employees. They never met a GM," he revealed. "They have never seen the GM's bungalow before except the senior officials." He said, "I always wondered that with a huge pool of railway engineers in this large system, however, we can't have a train that is aesthetically superior or faster."

By the time he retired from ICF, the coach factory which is one of the biggest manufacturers of train coaches in the world had churned out two Vande Bharat Express trains.

 

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