GE’s diesel locomotives to be used as back-up: Piyush Goyal

By: | Published: August 29, 2018 3:53 AM

Clearing the air on what the Indian Railways intends to do with diesel locomotives to be supplied by GE in the coming years at a time when the transporter is expeditiously electrifying its routes, railway minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said these locomotives would be used as “back-ups”.

Goyal said that apart from savings in terms of energy as well as impact on the environment, there are other advantages as well of having a fleet of all-electric locomotives.

Clearing the air on what the Indian Railways intends to do with diesel locomotives to be supplied by GE in the coming years at a time when the transporter is expeditiously electrifying its routes, railway minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said these locomotives would be used as “back-ups”.

Speaking at the Smart Railways Conclave organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, a lobby group, Goyal said: “The engines given by GE can be used as back up across the country, in border areas, for maintenance purposes whenever electrification needs to be repaired or set up. So we will have engines which are super-efficient as back up.”

He also added that the railways has engineered a way to convert diesel locomotives into electric ones. As and when the existing engines are coming up for overhauling, at the cost that the railways would have spent to overhaul the old diesel engine, for the same amount or less, the carrier is able to convert it into an electric locomotive. “So instead of having a refurbished diesel locomotive, we get a new electric locomotive,” said Goyal.

The proposal to set up a locomotive unit at Marhowra in Bihar was made by the railways in September 2006 and GE was awarded the contract in November 2015. The railways is to pay GE Rs 14,656 crore for assured off-take of 1,000 engines apart from Rs 2,228-crore as maintenance fee.

The US-based company has already supplied two locomotives. However, last year the ministry of railways announced that it will go for massive electrification of routes and by 2021, all routes will be electrified saving the carrier Rs 11,500 crore as energy cost annually. “We are looking at electrification in a big way. That is going to save us nearly $2 billion a year which otherwise I will have to charge to passengers of the country,” said Goyal on Tuesday. At present, 42% of the approximately 66,000 km route of the railways is electrified.

The railways has also stopped manufacturing of diesel locomotives from its Patiala unit, and the Varanasi unit will also stop production of such units from FY20.

These events led to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India earlier this year questioning the purpose of setting up the GE unit in Bihar. The auditor has said that the new unit is “not in sync with the overall strategic vision” of the Indian Railways which is electrifying most of its high-speed routes. It added that the diesel locomotives procured under the agreement with GE would have no scope for productive use in future, given the electrification drive for the railways’ own network and also the dedicated freight corridor, which will be run fully on electricity.

Goyal said that apart from savings in terms of energy as well as impact on the environment, there are other advantages as well of having a fleet of all-electric locomotives. “When you have one type of system, the cost of maintenance, spares and training of employees comes down,” he added.

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