Oct 17, 2016

Move to build aluminium coaches



A view of the land for the proposed coach factory at Kanjikode, near Palakkad.— Photo: K. K. Mustafah.

Plan to take up work under PPP mode at Palakkad coach factory:

The long-awaited Rs.550-crore rail coach factory at Kanjikode, near here, will be a reality soon if Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu approves a fresh proposal mooted by the Railway Board to establish an aluminium coach factory under public-private-partnership (PPP) to manufacture light weight coaches that can help reduce fuel consumption.
The proposal that is now awaiting the final approval of the Minister recommends issuing of a tender to establish the aluminium coach factory on the 92.04 hectares of land handed over by Kerala Government at Kanjikode six years ago.

According to top Railway sources, the move to set up the aluminium coach factory was initiated in the background of the recent successful trial of Spanish Talgo coaches, made of aluminium. At present, the Indian Railways uses Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, which are made of steel and are heavier leading to high fuel consumption.

“We are pushing hard the case for the Palakkad factory to manufacture aluminium coaches under the PPP basis. The earlier request for the proposal to establish a steel coach factory had evoked lukewarm response from potential private investors. We anticipate better response this time as railway companies across the globe now prefer aluminium coaches,” said the officer, who preferred anonymity.

It was in 2008-09 that the coach factory was announced in the Railway Budget along with a rail wheel plant at Chhapra, rail coach factory at Rae Bareli, and a diesel component factory at Dankuni. Only the Kanjikode project got delayed because of the lukewarm response from prospective private investors. The foundation stone for the rail coach factory was laid February 22, 2012.

“We have submitted the proposal to the Union Railway Minister for final approval. After we get the approval, efforts would be initiated to get private stakeholders. Global tenders would be invited,” said a Railway Board official.

He said the Railways had been of late putting many delayed manufacturing projects on track to augment capacity. Some of the projects that gained momentum and are at the execution stage include a decade-old proposals to establish an electrical locomotive unit in Madhepura and a diesel locomotive unit in Marhowrah, both in Bihar.

“Though the aluminium coaches are costlier because of the lightweight, we will be able to get good returns by cutting down time. It eventually becomes more economical” said the official.