Coal and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said the Indian Railways will completely phase out diesel locomotives in the next five years and will switch to electric locomotives with the focus on increasing speed. This comes two months after a run-in with General Electric (GE) over manufacturing of diesel locomotives, reported Live Mint. Currently, of the total network of 66,687 route kilometres (RKM) of Indian Railways, only 30,012 RKM is electrified. By phasing out diesel locomotives, the Railways will save about Rs 11,500 crore annually, Goyal said, addressing the National Executive Council members of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) in New Delhi. "The diesel locomotives will be used for back up purposes in the yards,” Goyal added. The Centre’s decision raises uncertainty over the US giant’s $2.6-billion diesel locomotive project in Bihar, where GE is setting up a factory at an estimated cost of Rs 2,052 crore. GE had said the cancellation of the deal would undermine the government’s Make in India initiative and put future foreign investment at risk. (Read more) The project, in which the Railways had limited equity contribution, was planned for 10 years where GE would have supplied 1,000 diesel locomotives of 4,500 and 6,000 horsepower. According to the contract, the Railways had 26 per cent stake in the project, while the foreign companies would have the remaining 74 per cent stake.
Railways was also offering 226 acres for the project, touted as the largest in the 100-year history of GE in India. The carrier has been planning to electrify more than 4,000 kms of track in 2018-19 and is also gearing up for complete electrification by 2020-21.Goyal further added that he wanted to double rail services in the Mumbai suburban in the next two years. Stressing on the safety of passengers, the Railways Minister also said that he has directed the railway officials to speed up the production of the Linke-Hofmann-Busch (LHB) coaches instead of relying on the Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) coaches. "We are promoting LHB type coaches as they are safer compared to the ICF coaches," he said, adding that June 2018 will be the last month for the ICF coaches to be manufactured. "I have asked the rail coach factories to develop the LHB coaches and also asked the Rae Bareli coach factory to double up its production, as it currently has the capacity to build 1,000 coaches annually,” Goyal added. Goyal said that he had also spoken to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to allot 200 acres more land for the expansion of the Rae Bareli coach factory. He also defined his tenure in the last 77 days as the Railways Minister as a "good learning experience". He said he has taken upward of 600 policy decisions on policy matters of the Railways. "For the safety of passengers also we have approved 372 escalators in Mumbai suburban alone and we will have close to 3,000 escalators being set up in the Railways across the country," Goyal said. He assured the industry that there is no fund shortage for safety-related items in the Railways.