The Bihar government has decided to discuss the future of Marhowra diesel locomotive factory with the Centre with the plea that “diesel engines will still be in high demand”. This comes soon after The Indian Express report that the Railways was considering the possibility of exiting or winding up the factory, being set up in Saran in partnership with GE.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters: “We will discuss the matter with the Union Railway Minister. I believe high-capacity diesel engines will still be in high demand, and total electrification of railway engines will take some time. If efficient diesel engines are produced, they will have demand worldwide.”
A source said the project was at an advanced stage, and there should be no change in the near future. “The CM will discuss all the points threadbare, taking into account technical and practical considerations of the Marhowra project,” he added. A senior JD(U) leader told the media: “Closure of the project will have political ramifications. The RJD will get a political plank against the NDA. Even though it could be technically tenable to switch from diesel to electricity engine manufacturing after a few years, winding it up will not be a good step.”
RJD spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha said: “While taking a decision on Marhowra, the government must consider that it was supposed to change the employment scenario. Hundred per cent electrification in the near future appears to be as elusive as the ‘achhe din’.”
The Indian Express on Monday carried the report “Eye on electrification, Railways looks at winding up Bihar diesel project”. The project has been under way to develop and supply 1,000 fuel-efficient diesel-electric evolution series locomotives. So far, two locomotives have been built and tested. The project is expected to be completed on time. The project was used as a political plank by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who served as Railway Minister between 2004 and 2009. Marhowra is in Saran, the parliamentary segment represented by Lalu for a long time. BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy represents Saran at present.
According to The Indian Express report, 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”. Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani had said that all aspects were being examined and it was too early to comment on modalities.
Meanwhile, the Madhepura electric locomotive project is running on time and expected to produce its first engine in February 2018. The factory — a joint venture of Indian Railways and a French company — will produce 800 engines. The Marhowra and Madhepura projects were billed as the biggest FDI in the rail sector, accounting for around Rs 40,000 crore of investment.