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Indian Railways readies ₹18,000-crore plan for upkeep of Vande Bharat trains

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The Indian Railways has drawn up a plan of about ₹18,000 crore to scale up its locomotive maintenance facilities for Vande Bharat trains, eyeing an increase in deployment of these semi-high-speed trains to more parts of the country.

The upgradation will enable speedier expansion as the lack of adequate maintenance depots across the country has emerged as a key roadblock in the roll-out of these trains in many parts of the country.

"The depot upgrade works will be carried out across the country to ensure that the Vande Bharat trains that are planned for introduction over the coming months can be maintained appropriately," a senior railways ministry official told ET on condition of anonymity.

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In his Independence Day address in 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that 75 Vande Bharat trains would connect every corner of the country. A year later, railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said 75 of these trains would be introduced by August 2023.

At present there are eight Vande Bharat Express trains running on the Indian Railways network, with the latest, flagged on January 15, connecting Secunderabad to Visakhapatnam

According to the Railway Board, there are 58 maintenance coaching depots or locations that can hold 100 Vande Bharat trains. These trains are faster, easier to maintain, consume less energy and have greater flexibility in operations. But the railways needs dedicated facilities in depots and workshops for maintenance of these trains.

"To ensure high reliability and availability of train sets, necessary maintenance infrastructure has to be planned and developed simultaneously," said a note from the Research Design and Standards Organisation, a railways arm that functions as a technical adviser.

In addition to about 475 Vande Bharat trains that are in the pipeline, the railways is also pushing upgraded track infrastructure and improved stations. It is eyeing 25,000 km of new tracks and a massive upgrade of railway stations that can function as commercial hubs in the centre of cities.

Cost breakdown
The railways estimates that it will cost ₹312 crore per depot to upgrade the depots - ₹165.85 crore for civil, ₹131.8 crore for mechanical and ₹13.48 crore for electrical engineering works.
 
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