Indian Railways (IR) which is perhaps one sector of the economy which consumes huge volumes of steel, .coal, electricity and fossil fuels in particular for its operations, have planned to spend as much as Rs.30,000 crores during financial year 2008-09 for upgrading their assets and acquiring new ones which will go a long way in boosting the economy and prevent recessionary tendencies in the economy.Projects which consume lakhs of tonnes of steel, which will go to boost this sector, will of course be at the top. For example the renewal of rails over a length of 2941 kilometres (km) will require 3,39,288 tonnes of steel which should cheer the Ministry of Steel.
Through sleeper renewal over 2382 kms which will require 38.59 lakh pre-stressed concrete (PSC) sleepers this will require 88,200 tonnes of steel. In addition, 5000 tonnes of steel will be required for manufacturing steel channel sleepers during this year.
During the same period, 5294 tonnes of steel bridge girders have already been produced till October 2008 and the total production during the financial year 08-09 the total production during the year will be 8615 tonnes.
The decision of the Railways to acquire coaches, wagons EMUs (Electric Multiple Units), DEMUs (Diesel Multiple Units) will also help the economy because of the large expenditure on them. IR will produce 3000 coaches ( passenger carrying vehicles) this year, which is an increase of 12.5 per cent over the figure of the last year (07-08). Besides, 2873 EMUs,1091 MEMUs (Mainline Electric Multiple Units),216 Kolkata Metro coaches ,and three-phase propulsion system for 200 motor coaches will also be manufactured, with a total outlay of Rs.9200 crores.
Production of diesel locomotives and High-Horse Power EMD (Formerly General Motors) design would be enhanced at the Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi. DLW has produced already 152 locomotives.
The production of wheels and axles is also being increased by 6-0 per cent which will reduce imports and hence save foreign exchange.
The Railways have decided to convert 300 ordinary railway stations model stations which will involve both consumption of steel and other materials. Among them will be 23 world class stations.
Another item in which heavy expenditure is involved is the 1000 MW thermal Power station in collaboration with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NPC) at Nabinagar in Bihar at an investment of Rs. 5352 crores.
Indian Railway are also seeking allocation of a coal block with a capacity of 300 tonnes which is proposed to be utilized for setting up of a 2000 MW power plant.
About Rs. 300 crores will be spent during the next three months for commissioning of modern electronic signals at about 400 stations, intermediate block signaling in about 200 block stations and 400 route-kilometres of automatic block signaling.
About Rs.1800 crores will be spent during 2009-2010 for the modernization/ upgradation of signaling systems such as electronic interlocking, centralized panel Operations (500 stations), collision avoidance systems (1800 route kilometers), automatic signaling, centralised panel operations (500 stations), on board train protection/train collision avoidance system (1800 route kilometers) automatic signaling (500 route kilometers) and intermediate block signaling system ( 200 block sections).
Railway electrification target for the eleventh five year plan has been enhanced to 3500 kilometrers. This includes the extension of target from 700 kilometres to 1000 kilometres for the current year. Next year electrification is likely to be undertaken over 1200 kilometrres with an outlay of Rs, 1000 crores which will cover the Ghaziabad-Moradabad section, the Shoranur-Mangalore section, and the Gondia-Ballarshah section.
The last one is a chord between Gondia-Nagpur-Ballarshah and is a very convenient short cut between Gondia Junction and Ballarshah Junction, avoiding the long detour via Nagpur and Wardha.
The high-density network of Indian Railways including the DC-AC conversion in the Mumbai area, is being strengthened for carrying heavier trains and the requirement of funds for these schemes during 2009-10 is Rs.500 crores.
The Mumbai area of more than 330 kilometres has 1500 Volt Direct Current (DC) electrification system since 1925 while the rest of India has the 25,000 Volt Alternating Current (AC) system of electrification. The DC system is being converted to AC and it will take some time before the entire DC system is dismantled.
The acquisition of electric locomotives has been enhanced from 200 to 220 at an outlay of Rs.1740 crores. Process is under way to acquire 200 electric locomotives from Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd at an approximate cost of Rs. 5.5 crore each.
A factory is being set up at Madhepura in north Bihar manufacturing 100 electric locomotives per year through the Joint Venture (JV) route. Bid process is at present underway.
It is seeking an outlay of Rs.2800 crores towards undertaking telecommunications works till 2011-12.These works include replacement of more than 10,000 route kilometers of overhead alignment.
Arabinda Ghose, NPA