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Raw material shortage, focus on VB hit work at ICF Perambur

Production of LHF coaches (Linke Hofmann Busch), the German designed coach variant, has reached near pandemic level so far this financial year.

CHENNAI: The ICF (Integral Coach Factory) at Perambur in the city, which has won the bragging rights for producing the country’s first ‘indigenous’ semi-high speed train Vande Bharat, has slipped in its core manufacturing duty.

Production of LHF coaches (Linke Hofmann Busch), the German designed coach variant, has reached near pandemic level so far this financial year. From reaching a record 4,166 coaches in 2019-20 before the pandemic, the numbers have dipped to 1,747 coaches till last week. ICF has the capacity to manufacture eight to ten coaches (LHB) per day.

While the focus on Vande Bharat manufacturing has been touted as one of the reasons for the dip, officials attributed it to supply shortage. A senior ICF officer denied that the production fall was due to the focus on Vande Bharat as the factory has only produced four rakes (16 coaches each), which works out to 64 coaches since April last.

“ICF has the capacity to manufacture eight to ten coaches per day. Production of Vande Bharat and LHB coaches is not very different. So, it is wrong to say that Vande Bharat affected LHB coach production,” said the officer on condition of anonymity, admitting that the supply disruption caused during the pandemic has taken a toll on the factory’s performance.

“Many of our vendors have been struggling since the pandemic. Their suppliers have not been able to meet their demand. As a result, our vendors could not meet our raw material demand. It has directly affected our production,” another ICF officer involved in shell works disclosed.

Significantly, ICF continues to be the largest manufacturer of LHB coaches to Indian Railway till date.

Of the 3,263 LHB coaches manufactured in the country till November 30, 2022, ICF accounts for 1,467 coaches, while the coach factories in Kapurthala (RCF) and Rae Bareli (MCF) account for 973 and 823 LHB coaches respectively.

Even if one were to assume that ICF rolls out coaches to peak capacity (10 per day) for the reminder of the financial year ending March 31, 2023, the premiere coach factory in Chennai would only manufacture a little over 2,600 coaches, which would be at least 500 short of the previous financial year production.

Officials argue that the numbers are also determined by the demand and orders from the railway board, which assigns coaches to the respective railway zones. “The targets keep changing. Accordingly, our production,” the ICF officer added.

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