IR to retain 700 diesel locos post full electrification

The Railway Board has decided to retain 700 diesel locomotives in mainline operation over zonal railways.

This follows the Board’s decision to use them as backup in case of exigencies such as OHE breakdown and disaster management.

Committee-based decision

As on April 1, 2019 Indian Railways held 6194 electric locomotives and 5544 diesel locomotives.

A committee consisting of Executive Director -Electrical Engineering (Rolling Stock) and Executive Director Mechanical Engineering (Traction) and Executive Director Traffic Transportation (Safety) were mandated to analyse diesel consumption trends and suggest measures to save fuel.

The committee found half a dozen reasons for insignificant reduction in diesel consumption namely use of diesel locos even in electrified sections (diesel under wires), excess diesel consumption in FY19 versus FY18 by some zones despite increasing electrification (see table below), Non-shutting down of diesel locos when idle, diesel sheds still operating in electrified territories, strict monitoring of fuel consumption in regional consumer depots (RCDs) besides age-based disposal of surplus diesel locos.

Indian Railways last five yearsFY19FY18FY17FY16FY15
Route km6741566935669186668766030
Electrified route km3431929228253672355522224
% route  km electrified5144383534

Measures suggested

The committee said sections already electrified needed to be completed in all respects, including yard lines, sidings, en-route, traction sub-stations and associated transmission lines. This would ensure that diesel locomotives are not required for any operation en route [This was to do away with use of diesel locos in un-electrified sidings]. Mail/Express and passenger trains must be taken on electric traction as soon as electrification of concerned section is completed in all respect. Sufficient electric trained crew should be available for running electric locomotives especially in the newly electrified sections. For this, it should be ensured that not only the vacancies are filled expeditiously, but also conversion training is imparted in a phased manner so as not to create scarcity.

Going a step further, zonal railways have implemented a best practice namely hook-on hook off of diesel locos especially in island sections which are un-electrified. For instance, on Central Railway (an island between Bhigwan and Wadi) for Mumbai-Hyderabadv / Chennai / Bengaluru trains, electric locos are not detached at Pune. Instead a diesel loco is hooked-on at Pune to be hooked-off at Wadi where the electric loco which was hauling the train earlier raises its pantograph and hauls the train towards its destination. The same process is also being followed in West Central Railway’s 98-km island between Satna and Katni.

For continued operations of diesel locos in electrified sections, a separate committee has been nominated to analyse the extent of diesel under wire and to suggest measures to reduce. Incomplete electrification works are being planned to be completed on priority, besides ensuring adequate availability of electric locos and crew for smooth train operations.

Surplus diesel locos

The committee said diesel loco surplus to traffic/shunting must be phased out in a time bound manner keeping in view the minimum requirement for exigencies. Diesel locomotives which have completed their codal lives must be condemned immediately. Surplus Diesel locomotives from diesel loco sheds lying in electrified territory should be shifted /homed in other sheds in non electrified territory. Conversion of diesel locos to electric locos in a cost effective manner must be undertaken on priority. All inspection bays of diesel sheds needed to be wired to ensure smooth transit for movement of electric locos


The committee said zonal Railways where electrification was progressing should review the requirements of Regional Consumer Depots (RCDs) regularly and close down those not needed.

Strict monitoring of diesel consumption must be done regularly, the committee felt.

In addition, the RCDs with heavy off take and which are likely to continue in operation should be changed to Total Fuel Management model. Under this, oil companies will transport and hold fuel at railway stations under their own books and IR would pay only for the fuel consumed eliminating storage and handling losses.

Other measures

The committee also recommended provision of auxiliary power units (APUs) on diesel locos and blending of bio-diesel to be strictly done by zonal Railways based on requirement at 5 per cent as the Railway Board’s directives.

Diesel locos in yards and sidings which are not required for traffic use for a period more than an hour need to be shut down. Though instructions already exist, they need to be scrupulously followed, the committee concluded.

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About the Author: Sachin Buddhisagar


  1. Classic example of using diesel locomotives in electric traction in 3 cases i am mentioning and still i fail to understand why a diesel locomotive hauling the train and despite having a electric traction :
    1. Kolkata – Jammu Twai express from Deen Dayal Upadhy to Jammu, and from Jammu to DDU junction,though electric traction available from Barabanki to Jammu.
    2. Howrah Amritsar Mail from DDU junction to Amritsar and back to DDU junction, though electric traction is available from Lucknow to Amritsar.
    3. Howrah – Dibrugarh Kamrup express and Howrah – Guwahati Saraighat express diesel hauled from Howrah and back to Howrah, though electric traction is available from Howrah to New Jalpiguri.
    In the above mentioned 3 cases, a diesel locomotive is attached in front of the electric locomotive for hauling the small section of the non electrified section and detached the diesel locomotive at the beginning of the electrified section and allowing the electric locomotive to haul the train, then a substantial amount of diesel can be saved.
    Hope Railway authority will look into the above mentioned sections and trains i have mentioned earlier and take remedial measures at the earliest,so that diesel, vis a vis foreign exchange can be saved.

  2. Very sad that the Diesel locs will be phased out like the majestic steam engines. But looking at the cost savings in the long run, electrification is beneficial.

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