New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal for the complete electrification of Indian Railways in the next four years, reducing dependance on imported fossil fuel and saving revenue for the national carrier.
The move will cost the government ₹12,134 crore, rail minister Piyush Goyal said after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
Indian Railways had moved the cabinet to electrify 108 sections of the railways covering 13,675 route kilometers of tracks.
The government backed the proposal saying it will help the carrier save ₹13,510 crore per annum in fuel costs. Besides, complete electrification of broad gauge routes will have a significant impact on safety, capacity and speed.
Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks in the world with 67,368km of tracks and 22,550 trains that carry 22.24 million passengers and 3.04 million tonnes of freight every day.
Indian trains primarily run on electricity or diesel. Currently, around two-third of freight and more than half of passenger traffic in Indian Railways are ferried by electric traction (engines). However, electric traction accounts for just 37% of the total energy expenses of Indian Railways.
“This will reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel and reduce costs for the Railways. Prime Minister wants to improve efficiency and by saving cost make Indian Railways profitable. This without burdening the passengers,” Goyal said adding that the move will also reduce pollution.
The minister said once the project is completed, Indian Railways may become the largest electrified rail network in the world. It will help save foreign exchange, reduce pollution and make railways faster and safer.
Goyal said heavy duty routes like Delhi-Chennai, Howrah-Delhi and Howrah-Chennai will be taken up one by one on a priority to complete end-to-end electrification.
Railways in a press statement said that the step will also help it to reduce expenditure on maintenance of locomotives. Electric locomotive maintenance cost is ₹16.45 per thousand gross tonne km (GTKM), while for diesel locomotive it is ₹32.84 per thousand GTKM.
Goyal told reporters Wednesday that full electrification does not mean there will be no diesel engines—these can still can be used for alternative arrangements and in border areas. He said the country needs 700 to 1,000 diesel engines in border areas. Besides, he said railway engineers are working to convert existing diesel engines into electric engines.
The railway electrification move comes a year after the Railway-GE controversy. Last year Goyal asked the Indian Railways to review the GE diesel locomotive project as Indian Railways wanted to go for complete electrification by 2022. His comments drew protests from the US-based company GE which warned the national carrier that any decision to scrap the project would have a “serious impact on job creation and skills development and cause the government to incur substantial costs”. GE was asked to set up a diesel locomotive factory in Bihar in 2014 and as per the government’s decision Indian Railways would buy 1,000 diesel locomotives from it over 10 years.
The Union cabinet also approved a proposal to give incentives to companies by reducing cess and royalty payment for improvements in production in existing oil and gas fields.