Pallakkad coach factory shelved: Kanchrapara in limbo while other plants get nod

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MUMBAI 21st June 2018 In a move to rationalize future production capacities and bring them in line with anticipated demand, the Ministry of Railways is reported to have shelved the proposed Rail Coach Factory at Pallakad in Kerala. The decision has resulted in protests from several quarters in the state.

In the process of taking a hard look at populist projects announced over the past decade, IR has chosen to shelve projects of limited utility, even as it proceeds to set up new units elsewhere.

The move comes on the back of the announcement of a new electric multiple unit (EMU) manufacturing facility at Latur, Maharashtra, in January 2018. The foundation stone for the proposed unit was laid at Latur by end of March the same year. Expected to cost Rs.500 crores, the unit will supply EMU trainsets to existing and upcoming suburban railway as well as metro networks.

The now shelved Pallakad Rail Coach Factory was to be the first of its kind in Kerala, a state that has long asked for a railway production unit. Announced by then Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee in the Railway Budget for 2010-11, the unit was intended to build 450 coaches per annum for IR. Scant progress was made after land acquisition was completed by the state government.

With a financial crunch resulting from a slowdown in freight traffic and the impact of implementation of the 7th Pay Commission, significant funds were not allocated to get the project off the ground. Two other coach factories were announced in the same budget at Kanchrapara and Rae Barelli. Out of those, only one, Rae Barelli, has been commissioned so far.

The proposed unit at Kanchrapara in West Bengal is also under review and likely to be shelved since it was found unviable. West Bengal has been particularly favoured by governments in the past when it came to setting up of production units. WB currently is home to several locomotive sheds situated at Howrah, Santragachi, Andal, Siliguri, two major manufacturing units at Chittaranjan and Dankuni, as well as a major workshop at Kharagpur.

At the same time, Chennai based Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) has been scaling up its own manufacturing facilities over the past few years. ICF intends to create capacity to produce 3000 coaches per annum.

In a related development, Maharashtra Metro Railway Corporation Ltd, popularly known as MahaMetro, has also announced plans to set up a manufacturing unit for Metro coaches at Butibori near Nagpur, Maharashtra. The decision was taken after China’s CRRC backed out of its plans to set up a production facility at the location. The Butibori unit is expected to be run in partnership with one of existing metro coach makers.

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