Madhepura loco plant finally back on track

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 12 2014, 06:13am hrs
The long-stalled proposed Madhepura rail locomotive factory in Bihar, to be built under the public-private partnership mode, has gained some traction with the railways finally shortlisting multinationals Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom and General Electric for the R1,300-crore project. The project is likely to be awarded in September, heralding the use of the PPP model for expanding Indias rail network.

Six companies had applied for the project. Four of them meeting our requirements have been shortlisted. Request for proposal document will be issued soon, after which the final selection will be made, a Railway Board member told FE.

The proposals of two Chinese companies CSR and CNR were rejected as they did not meet the technical criteria.

The criteria for qualification for the projects include the condition that the companies applying should have supplied locomotives to at least three countries.

The shortlisting for the electric loco factory in Madhepura was to be done in September last year.

The national transporter says the delay happened as it had to verify the claims of applicant companies with the countries where they have been operating. We had to check with around 34 countries where these companies have supplied locomotives and this process took a lot of time, the Railway Board member said.

Meanwhile, the shortlisting for the Rs 1,200-crore diesel locomotive factory in Marhowrah, also in Bihar, will also be announced soon. GE, EMD of the US and Chinas CSR and CNR are in the fray for the project.

The fresh request for qualifications (RFQs) for both projects were issued in May last year after a Cabinet nod. The two locomotive projects were first announced by in 2006 by then railway minister Lalu Prasad, and the tendering process was initiated in August 2008. Four companies were initially shortlisted for the electric locomotive project. In 2009, the RFP was approved by the Cabinet, but only one bid (GE) came in.

So the railway ministry went back to the Cabinet, saying that the joint venture route didnt materialise and asking for the permission to take the public undertaking route for the project, for which the Cabinet gave its approval. This was just before the 2009 general elections.

After UPA-II came back to power, the railways again approached the Cabinet saying the market had improved and going ahead with a joint venture would be beneficial. When bids were invited, four companies came forward but an empowered committee set up for the project wanted some changes (like transfer of technology and maintenance) made in the bidding documents after considering the concerns of bidders. Against this backdrop, an empowered group of ministers was formed, which was of the view that since a lot of conditions in the bidding documents were to be changed, it was better to go for fresh bids. The approval for fresh bids came in May last year after which a RFQ was issued.