Aug 11, 2016

IR to overcome hurdles in Railway Electrification due to dearth of Locos & Funds

Indian Railways yet to go miles for complete electrification which would require covering another 35,000 km as on date!

rly electrificationNew Delhi: Lack of funds and inability to build enough locomotives threaten to derail Indian Railways’ target to achieve full electrification of its network in the next three years.

The estimated cost of electrification of the remaining routes is ₹35,000 crore, according to the Railways.
In addition, ₹60,000 crore will be needed to build locomotives and another ₹10,000 crore for setting up masts, overhead equipment, contact wires, substations and transformers, according to a railway official.

Raising funds for electrification at one go isn’t easy as the Railways is already cash strapped, limiting its borrowing capacity, said another official.

As on March 31, a total of 27,999 route km of the railway network was electrified. Full electrification would require covering another 35,000 km.

In terms of locomotives, the Railways effectively deployed 5,105 locomotives out of its total holding of 5,142. “An additional 5,000 locomotives will be required for complete electrification. For this, additional staff for locomotive and traction maintenance is required. Further, re-skilling and redeployment of diesel staff (mechanical department) to maintain electric locos is a big ask,” said a senior official of the electrical branch.

With Chittaranjan Locomotive Works producing its highest-ever (280 electric locos) in Fiscal Year 2016, it seems near impossible to produce the required number in three years. “In addition, more than half of the world’s railway systems run on standard gauge (1,435 mm width), so importing electric locos of broad gauge (1,676 mm) in such a large quantity would be tough,” the official said.

Power Ministry proposal

A few months back, at a meeting between senior functionaries of the Power and Railway Ministries, the former proposed that one of its public sector undertakings could bear the cost of electrifying the remaining railway network in three years, in return for sharing the benefits accruing to the Railways from lower energy costs. The savings were estimated to be ₹12,500 crore, by the Power Ministry. This may not be enough, according to experts.

“While the financial rate of return may not fully justify the proposal, if the economic rate of return was considered, including lower pollution, the country should opt for electric traction on a long-term basis,” said an official. “Moreover, major trunk routes, barring a few, had already been electrified. Hence, savings on electrifying non-important routes would not be significant,” he added.

According to another expert: “Indian Railways is a good paymaster. So, all power producers want it to be their customer. With not enough offtake from power houses, the Power Ministry may want the Railways to be entirely electrified, as today, power is cheaper than diesel.

“However, one should base the decision on the total cost of procurement, taking into account the risks of depending on one kind of energy.”