New Delhi: In a major shift from the past, Indian Railways plans to bid out large tenders as high as 1,500km under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model for railway electrification, to achieve its target of full electrification by 2021.

The move will bring electrification costs substantially down for the national carrier, which at present pays around Rs1-2 crore per km for electrification.

“We plan to make large packages ranging from 400km to 1,500km under EPC contracts. The deal will bring good value and expedite process. Besides, from now on, all electrification contracts would be on EPC mode," a senior railway ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

He refused to share more details, adding that the bids were yet to be finalized.

The move comes a month after Mint had reported railway minister Piyush Goyal disclosing his plans to issue large tenders for electrification to save on costs and time. Goyal, who took charge as railway minister in September, had said that he was amazed to see Railways issuing tenders for electrifying distances as short as 30-40km, a rate at which it will take years for Indian Railways to complete its electrification mission.

“I have directed the electrification directorate to issue electrification tenders with minimum 500km of track length. This will ensure speedy electrification and cost reduction," Goyal had said.

On Monday, the national carrier also uploaded a model EPC Agreement, model RFQ (request for qualification) and model RFP (request for proposal) for public feedback till 16 November to take the electrification deals forward.

Indian Railways plans to electrify 24,400km of railway tracks in a five-year period (2016-17 to 2020-21) at a cost of Rs35,000 crore. Many companies, including public sector undertakings like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel), are eyeing the national carrier’s electrification contracts.

Another railway official, confirming the move, said, “Railways has just electrified around 40% of its total track length of 66,000km till now and is way behind its target. The big contracts will help to bridge the gap and also bring in big players who have expertise and capacity to do faster work."

He added that all EPC contracts would be open for global companies, too.

Until now, Indian Railways has issued just two projects under the EPC model, costing around Rs1,050 crore for electrification of 781 route kilometers. The contract was awarded for electrification of the Delhi Sarai Rohilla–Rewari and Alwar–Bandikui–Jaipur– Phulera–Ajmer (353 railway km) section at a cost of Rs594 crore and Roha–Verna (428 railway km) of Konkan Railway at a cost of Rs456 crore.

Since taking charge of the railway ministry in September, Goyal has been pushing for railway track electrification. His strategy for fast-track execution includes delegation of power of acceptance of tenders and award of contracts to zonal railways.

Queries emailed to the railway ministry remained unanswered.