Eye on electrification, Railways looks at winding up Bihar diesel project

Eye on electrification, Railways looks at winding up Bihar diesel project

Given that electrification is the roadmap for the future, the Railways is considering the possibility of exiting or winding up the Marhowra diesel locomotive factory being set up in Bihar’s Saran in partnership with General Electric, two years after the project was awarded.

This possibility was discussed during a review meeting of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal with members of the Railway Board on September 7, according to internal communications issued a day later.

The reason for the proposed move is that diesel will no longer be used by the Railways, which is expeditiously implementing the near-total electrification of its network with the aim of moving to a cheaper and cleaner source of energy.

Following the discussions, the Railway Board is required to move the matter on files “on top priority”, according to the communications. However, any move to exit or wind up the project would require a formal mandate from the Union Cabinet.

When contacted, Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Railway Board, told The Indian Express: “All aspects of the matter are being examined right now. It is too early to comment on the modalities.”

When asked to comment on the proposal to exit the project, a GE spokesperson responded with an emailed statement on behalf of the company. “We are on track and actively fulfilling our contract with Indian Railways to develop and supply 1,000 fuel-efficient diesel-electric Evolution Series locomotives, bringing modern rail infrastructure and new high-skills jobs to the country. Two locomotives have been built and tested. The first locomotive has been shipped and will arrive in India on October 10 for IREE (International Railway Equipment Exhibition),” it said.

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“The construction of our Brilliant Factory in Marhaura, Bihar and maintenance shed in Roza, UP are well underway and expected to be completed on time. The project creates a robust supply chain ecosystem in India, constituting 60 new local suppliers and 10 global suppliers to achieve over 70% localisation. Roughly 1,000 direct and indirect roles have been hired to support these efforts in the region,” it said.

Railways officials said that all pros and cons will be taken into consideration, keeping in mind the interests of all stakeholders, before a final decision is taken.

The Railway Board is also working on a plan to immediately halt the rehabilitation of diesel locomotives, and ensure that no new investments are made on infrastructure to maintain stocks.

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