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Indian Railways gets cracking on environment protection, fuel bill

Orders energy audit of zonal bodies and production units

Sudheer Pal Singh  |  New Delhi 

After initiating plans for revamp of its administrative set-up and financial health, Indian Railways has got cracking on environment management, with a focus on pollution control, efficiency in energy consumption, conservation of resources like water, proper use of land, and development and use of renewable energy.

The ministry has formed a directorate in the Railway Board to implement this plan. The ‘Environment Directorate’, headed by an advisor, is functioning directly under the Board chairman. Within a week of formation, the directorate asked all zonal railways and production units to prepare performance report cards on environmental issues.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu sought inputs last week from energy experts to lower the transporter’s hefty fuel bill. “How can the Railways reduce the cost of its energy? Please offer some ideas to help me prepare the Budget as well,” Prabhu had said at an annual event.

As part of the plan, all railway zones and production units will monitor and report the trends in consumption of traction energy, both electrical and diesel, and conduct audits of energy and water consumption across major activity centres like workshops, depots, loco sheds, and railway stations, every month.

The ministry has also asked all zonal railways to introduce a system of monitoring consumption of all types of energy and water, along with trend analysis and benchmarking. All the zones and production units have been asked to give their reports within six months.

Electric traction accounts for 63 per cent of Indian Railways’ freight operations and 50 per cent of passenger services. Diesel traction accounts for 36 per cent of freight and 49 per cent of passenger operations. Indian Railways consumes about 13.8 billion units of electricity annually, close to two per cent of the country’s total power production.

The Railways’ locomotives also consume 2.6 billion litres of diesel annually. Its fuel bill — electricity traction cost apart from diesel — accounted for Rs 28,592 crore, or 22 per cent, of its total working expenses in 2013-14. Diesel accounted for around 70 per cent of the fuel bill.

The transporter has budgeted for an increase of Rs 20,000 in its working expenses — from Rs 1,22,867 crore last financial year to Rs 1,43,318 crore in the current year. The bulk of this additional expenditure was on account of fuel spending, which is expected to increase by Rs 6,500 crore over last year to Rs 35,181 crore in 2014-15.

Indian Railways’ expenditure on diesel had jumped 45 per cent from Rs 13,750 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 19,950 crore in 2013-14, despite a mere 2.7 per cent increase in volume.

The reason: A 34 per cent jump in diesel prices driven by last year’s rise in crude oil rates. The situation has completely changed this year, with global crude oil prices declining over 50 per cent since June 2014 to less than $45 a barrel.

Diesel prices for the Railways have come down from Rs 60.08 a litre in June to Rs 50.51 a litre now.

  • After restructuring the railway board and financial review, the ministry is focusing on environment management
  • The plan includes lowering fuel bill, benchmarking energy consumption, and auditing energy use of zonal wings and production units
  • An ‘Environment Directorate’ will monitor the implementation of the plan
  • Electricity traction accounts for 63 per cent of the Railways’ freight and 50 per cent of ITS passenger operations; Diesel traction accounts for the rest
  • The Railways’ fuel bill (diesel and electricity) is estimated to rise 25 per cent to Rs 35,000 crore this financial year

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First Published: Mon, February 02 2015. 00:28 IST