New Delhi: Diesel-guzzling engines of Indian Railways will soon give way to the fast-moving trains running on electricity. In a first step towards phasing out diesel engines, the railways have begun replacing passenger trains on short routes with electric-hauled MEMU trains. This aims at increasing the speed of trains by up to 25 kmph and reducing air pollution by minimizing the use of diesel. Railway officials said the use of electric engines will also save on fuel cost as it is cheaper that diesel.
The initiative is a part of ‘Mission Raftar’ announced by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the Rail Budget this year. The mission envisages a target of doubling of average speed of freight trains and increasing the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kmph in next 5 years. At present the average speeds for non-suburban passenger trains is 46.3 kmph and for freight trains the average speeds is 24.2 kmph.
To implement the plan, a cross-functional mission directorate has been created in the Railway Board. “Action Plan for improving mobility and increasing average speed of trains incude replacement of conventional loco hauled commuter trains by Main Line Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) and Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains,” said a railway ministry official.
To begin with, railways have already begun replacing diesel engines on Kanpur-Allahabad section and Asansol-Dhanbad section. A senior Railway Board officer said cash crunch is mainly responsible for slow pace of producing electric engines. Railways are also expediting the work on electrification of railway network so as to remove diesel engines from service.
On an average 1350 km of rail line is electrified every year. However, the Union Power Ministry has proposed to fund railway’s electrification and recover the cost from the ministry at later stage. With electrification of the entire rail network, the railways may gradually stop the production of diesel locomotives and also reduce the use of diesel as a fuel.
With this, railways may be able to cut down its expenses on fuel by up to `18,000 crore annually.