Ending months of controversy over the move to import complete train sets by floating global tenders and the stiff resistance that followed from senior railway officials and political parties, the Ministry of Railways has finally accorded sanction to the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) here to roll out 45 rakes (720 coaches) of the Vande Bharat Express.In a communication sent to the General Manager on Saturday, the Railway Board cleared the decks for the ICF to proceed with the procurement process immediately with the specifications issued by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO). Fresh tenders will be floated to procure the propulsion system with revised guidelines on the design and eligibility criteria of suppliers. The ICF was told to ensure that there was no compromise on the Make in India policy.High-level meetingConfirming this to The Hindu, a senior railway official said the decision to approve manufacture of the rakes by the ICF was taken at a high-level meeting in New Delhi. The opinion of the General Managers of the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, and the Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli, was also sought on their capability to make the train sets so that they could be included in the programme to roll out the 45 rakes by 2021-22.“This is a huge success for the ICF that manufactured Train18, India’s first semi-high speed train in a record 18-month time in 2018. The indigenously built self-propelled train, launched as Vande Bharat Express between New Delhi and Varanasi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February, has been acknowledged as one of the most successful products of the Make in India campaign. The second rake, flagged off a couple of months ago, is operating between New Delhi and Katra. The production was halted over the alleged procedural flaws in the making of the train,” a senior railway officer said.The tenders to manufacture more Train18 rakes were withdrawn after the Vigilance Directorate launched an investigation into the allegations that included one company being favoured in the making of the first two rakes.While then ICF General Manager S. Mani retired from service, then Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer Shubhranshu, who played a key role in the project, and a few others were not only transferred but served questionnaires by the vigilance officials to respond to the allegations. Even as the investigation was on, the Railway Board proposed to procure 60 rakes by floating global tenders. The reason why production was halted at the ICF was that the rakes were found to be heavier and also consuming more power compared to the Shatabdi Express. The move drew sharp criticism from railway officials including Mr. Shubhranshu who recorded his protest in writing to the Chairman Railway Board, the All India Railwaymen Federation and a couple of political parties that raised the issue in Parliament. The 45 rakes, meaning 720 coaches, that the ICF has been mandated to make now will be on a revised design of the Train18 model approved by the RDSO. Parrying questions on whether the new specifications would weigh lesser to minimise electricity consumption, the official who preferred not to be quoted, said the new design would conform to world class standards of comfort and safety. Considering the fact that the earlier two rakes were made at a cost of ₹100 crore each, the 45 rakes for which tenders will be floated soon meant an order of at least ₹5,000 crore taking escalation in the cost of materials and other modifications into account, the official said. He said full credit to restore the project to the ICF went to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who recently told Parliament that he was proud of the ICF which made the Vande Bharat Express, the first high-speed train made in the 168-year history of the Indian Railways.