Plans of conversion of diesel locos to electric dropped. Excess units to be condemned, sold or exported.
The Ministry of Railways has asked the Railway Board to quickly downsize Indian Railways’ fleet of diesel locomotives. 2,500 diesel units are likely to face the chopping block soon, sources told RailPost.in
Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal wants 100% electrification for the public transport behemoth in the next few years.
As of 1st July 2020, Indian Railways operates two shy of 5,500 diesel locos. They are maintained by 42 sheds spread across the country. Holdings of several sheds will be more than halved as a result.
The Ministry wants this freed up infra to be utilized for maintenance of the rapidly expanding fleet of electric locos. IR has a fleet of more than 7,000 electric locos as of 1st July 2020.
18 diesel locomotive sheds have already made suitable modifications and home approx 800 electric units.
725 electric locos were planned for production this year. The number is likely to decline substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and low rail traffic levels at present.
Make high-power, high-speed electric locos in India by 2022, officials told
The ministry has asked Board officials to adopt the latest technology and produce 9-12,000 horsepower electric locos meant for 120 km/h freight and 200 km/h capable passenger services.
Target for a prototype has been set for June 2022.
Plans for conversion of diesel locos to electric dropped
IR has also dropped much-hyped plans for the conversion of redundant diesel locomotives to electric, according to officials. The cost of conversion reportedly made the exercise infeasible.
Research Development and Standards Organization (RDSO) and Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) had taken up the project to convert two ALCo based units and several EMD units to electric. All converted prototypes are now based at Bondamunda shed of South Eastern Railway.
Diesels: Sell, Export, Scrap… or Gift?
With the decision to get rid of as many diesel locos as possible, Indian Railways faces tough choices.
A large part of Indian Railways’ diesel fleet has not worked for half of its codal life yet. Units that are due for heavy maintenance are likely to be condemned. The government-owned transporter is likely to take a financial hit on premature condemning of so many locos.
Savings in fuel and maintenance bills have been cited by officials as likely to make up for some of the loss in the long term.
There is a limited market for high power diesel locomotives, especially ones built for broad gauge. Local industrial demand for such powerful locomotives is almost non-existent. RITES has been asked to work with DLW and the Railway Board to find ways to dispose of the surplus units, said an official conversant with the matter.
IR recently gifted Bangladesh Railways 10 ALCo based diesel units as part of a larger agreement on improving railway connectivity between India and Bangladesh.
The GE/Wabtec Conundrum
This still leaves the Railway Ministry stuck with the question of what to do with diesel locos that continue to be manufactured at a plant in Marhowra, Bihar.
Indian Railways awarded a contract in 2015 to then General Electric, which later sold its transportation division to Wabtec, to produce 1,000 units of 4,500 and 6,000 horsepower diesel locos. Over 700 units are to be delivered over the next few years.
Unless Indian Railways finds a way out of the contract, or is able to resell the remainder of the fleet to other railway networks, the fate of most diesel locomotives in India looks bleak.