Indian Railways plans LNG-run locos for long distances

The Indian Railways is set to go green by rolling out engines fuelled by environment friendly and cost-effective liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Though in the preliminary stage, the railways — which currently uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels — gradually plans to switch over to the globally recognised natural gas powered locomotives.

The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) -the Lucknow research wing of the Railways — is working on development of a prototype of an LNG-powered locomotive, as part of its efforts to adopt environment-friendly and costeffective alternative fuels.

“Once the prototype is proven on the field, the Railways plans to build another 20 LNG-based locomotives on the same concept,” said AK Mathur, spokesperson, RDSO.

It would take another 2-3 years for putting the locomotives for commercial usage, after passing all the safety tests, he added.

With the introduction of this technology, the Railways expects a 50% reduction in operating costs of locomotives. In addition, there would be an elimination of smoke from the locomotives and significant reductions in other regulated and unregulated emissions.

“Once the Railways switches over completely to natural gas as fuel for its diesel locomotives, it would amount to only 2.2 % of India’s annual natural gas consumption of 81 million tonnes and therefore commercially feasible,” said a railway official.

At present, Indian Railways uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels for running its fleet of locomotives. Prices of both these fuels have been rising rapidly due to increasing prices of crude oil and imported coal, devaluation of the rupee and such factors that, apart from environment concerns, has prompted the public carrier to think of an alternate fuel.

Already, a short distance diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) has been converted into a compressed natural gas (CNG) driven locomotive in Shakoor Basti in Delhi. The concept would be soon replicated in 40 other trains.

“CNG is used for short distances while LNG would be applicable for long distance trains as well,” added the official. LNG is a natural gas (predominantly methane) that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Indian Railways is one of the first railway transport systems in the world to plan LNG-run locomotives for long distances.

Fuel-saving system for diesel locomotives on the anvil

Railways are in the process of developing a highly fuel efficient system for its fleet of diesel locomotives, a move which will help the PSU behemoth save about Rs 500-600 crore annually on fuel bill and reduce emissions by 30 per cent.

Research Development Standard Organisation (RDSO), the research wing of railways is developing the Common Rail Electronic Direct Fuel Injection (CReDI) system for diesel locomotives, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

A joint venture between an Indian manufacturer and a Swiss firm has been established for design and development of the system under overall supervision of RDSO for the purpose.

Fuel savings in the range of 3 to 4 per cent and emissions reductions by about 20-30 per cent are expected through the system.

“Once the systems are implemented on the complete fleet of locomotives, railways will save about Rs 500-600 crore annually on fuel bill,” said the official, adding “Besides Railways many other industries of India stand to gain from these developments.”

Railways fuel bill is estimated to be around Rs 9000 cr in a year.

In the long-term, complete manufacture, assembly and testing of the CReDI system shall be done here, placing India among the few countries possessing design and manufacturing capabilities for such sophisticated systems for large bore engines like locomotives, marine, trucks and battle tanks.

Use of Unconventional fuel on Indian Railways

ins with Bio-Diesel blend of upto 20% have been done on a few locomotives in Northern, South Eastern & Southern Railways. No large scale induction of Bio-Diesel as an alternate fuel has been done due to non-availability of Bio-Diesel in large quantities at economical prices. However, very small scale operations in Southern Railway, primarily on shunting locomotives, has been continuing for past many years.

One Diesel Power Car (DPC No. 19002 of Shakurbasti Diesel shed) has been converted to CNG-diesel dual-fuel mode and is running successfully in services at present.

Railways have decided to set up two in-house Bio-Diesel plants of 30 tonnes per day each. The plants will be located at Tondiarpet (Chennai) in Tamil Nadu and Raipur in Chhattisgarh. In addition efforts are also being made to procure Bio-Diesel from trade. Works are in progress in both locations.

Railway Board has sanctioned a work of conversion of 20 diesel Locomotives to dual fuel mode with LNG as substitute fuel.

Sanction for conversion of 100 Diesel Power Cars (DPC) exists and contract for 50 numbers have been awarded and process of conversion has been initiated. Presently two DPCs are under conversion which will be completed in four months from now.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways Shri Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.

Golden Rock Loco Shed adjuged the best

The Golden Rock locomotive shed, home for many variants of diesel locomotives here has been adjudged the best among the four loco sheds in the Southern Railway zone in the 2012-13 fiscal.

The 41-year-old Tiruchi shed, the largest and the lone shed in the zone to home high horsepower EMD locomotives, bagged the ‘Performance Efficiency Shield’ for the fifth time. The shield was presented to the Tiruchi shed recently, after taking into account various parameters including less number of loco failures homed by the shed, less consumption of lubricants, less cycle time for heavy schedules and for carrying out crew-friendly modifications in the diesel engines.

The other diesel loco sheds in the zone are located at Erode, Ernakulam and Tondiarpet in Chennai. The shield was constituted in 2004-05, and the Tiruchi shed has bagged it five times, say railway officials.

Among the four sheds, Golden Rock accounts for maximum holding of diesel locomotives with the figure reaching 163 including over 90 ‘Alco’ locos and several ‘EMD’ locos which are capable of reaching a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour.

The Tiruchi shed has so far received 42 ‘EMD’ locos equipped with micro processors are longer and powerful than the ‘Alco’ diesel locos. The 4,500 horsepower EMD locos have better fuel efficiency than the conventional diesel engines and have higher fuel and lubricant oil capacity. Officials said eight more EMD locos were expected which would increase the tally to 50.

Facilities available

Additional infrastructure facilities have been created in the loco shed to home the EMD locos. Two new bays with elevated platforms have been constructed inside the sprawling shed to exclusively accommodate EMD locos. The bays can accommodate five such locos at a time, say officials. The Tiruchi shed is the only one in Southern Railway to have a Diesel Traction Training Centre (DTTC) within its premises to impart theoretical and field level training for newly recruited Assistant Loco Pilots, maintenance engineers and staff. Refresher courses are organised by the DTTC for Loco Pilots and Assistant Loco Pilots already in service periodically, say officials.

Jamalpur workshop acclaimed best for its ‘work quality’ at low cost

Jamalpur Railway Workshop in Munger district has proved the general perception that quality often comes at a great price wrong. The workshop has earned applause from Railway Board for its ‘work quality’ at a low cost. It has now emerged as the best ‘Diesel Locomotive Repair Workshop’ of Indian Railways for its better skills and advanced infrastructure required for both repair and manufacturing of diesel locomotives.

According to a Railway Board official, this workshop, which is one of the oldest in the country, carries out both manufacture and repair work of diesel locomotives.

As per the loco repair quality figures of April this year released by Director, Traction, Railway Board, on April 30, 2013, Jamalpur workshop has been declared as the best centre of periodic overhauling (POH) for diesel locomotives. The recent appraisal of the POH work has proved that Jamalpur workshop has less number of locomotive failures compared to other workshops, he said.

Jamalpur workshop has registered an impressive figure of just one locomotive failure out of 10 repaired after the run of about 2 lakh km by the locomotive. This figure is at par with the global best figures of the US and Europe rail roads. Put in a different way, it is equivalent to 28 round trips from Kashmir to Kanyakumari without any incident of locomotive failure, said chief works manager (CWM) of Jamalpur workshop, A K Sinha.

Incidentally, this is the first time that Jamalpur workshop has grabbed the coveted position as the best centre for periodic overhauling (POH) for diesel locomotives in the country, he said.

The CWM attributed this feat to the unmatched skills of the workers of Jamalpur who have better support of material inputs and modern technology. Periodic overhauling (POH) is carried out every eight years for diesel locomotives or after the run of about eight lakh kilometres by each diesel locomotive

Itarsi-Betul railway route set to complete 100 year

The Itarsi-Betul section in the Nagpur division of Central Railway will be completing 100 years tomorrow.

The 108-km rail route, a vital link connecting the north with the south via Nagpur, was opened on May 13, 1913.

Laying the rail route crisscrossing the entire Satpuda Valley was a major challenge back then. But engineers of erstwhile Great Indian Peninsula Railways (now Central Railway) achieved it by constructing nine tunnels and over 300 bridges in the valley, Central Railway Public Relations Officer Praveen Patil said.

In those days, the trains had steam engines and took three hours to cover the 108 km distance. The modern diesel and electric locomotives now take 1 hour and 45 minutes to cover the same stretch.

Diesel locomotives were introduced in the section in 1970, and electric locomotives followed suit 21 years later (1991).

Grand Trunk Express (New Delhi to Chennai) and Dakshin Express (H Nizamuddin to Hyderabad) are the oldest trains running on this route.

The centenary would be celebrated at a function at Betul station tomorrow.

Loco pilots to get AC comfort

Loco pilots of Southern Railway can soon look forward to working in the comfort of air-conditioned diesel locomotives.

For the first time, Southern Railway will put into operation new air-conditioned ‘EMD’ type diesel engines with dual cabins to haul long distance mail, express and superfast trains.

Four such locos with high horsepower and improved ambience, manufactured by the Varanasi-based Diesel Loco Works, are housed at Tiruchi Diesel Loco Shed.

The Tiruchi shed is the first in South India to house air-conditioned EMD locos.

The swanky locos would be put into operation upon obtaining clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS).

A trial run of the four locos with wider cabin and ergonomically designed seats was successfully done on the Tiruchi – Dindigul and Dindigul Erode broad gauge sections recently. Orientation programmes are being conducted for loco pilots at Tiruchi, Erode, Madurai and Ernakulam for piloting the new engines.

Each of these locos has been fitted with a 1.5-tonne AC unit in the cabin that is also equipped with a couple of Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display – one each for the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot. The TFT display system would enable the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot to clearly view the performance of the engine and its various parameters on monitors installed right in front of their seats.

The AC-fitted locomotive would ensure Loco Pilots work in a cool atmosphere while piloting the engine, the officer told The Hindu .

Bombardier, Siemens, GE, Alstom, EMD at war over Rs 40,000-cr locomotive market

In eight years, Indian Railways wants to be in a position to issue a ticket within five minutes of a traveller demanding it. For anyone who comes across this idea enshrined in a report titled Vision 2020, the road ahead is absurdly simple: technology would help issue more tickets to passengers at their doorstep through an array of devices.

But the Railways, even as it gets to that part about delivering the ticket, also has to deal with the fact that it needs to be able to run enough trains to meet the massive demand for seats. It is obvious to anyone who travels by rail for the first time in India that the demand for seats is much more than the supply, which is why tourists get to shoot those postcard pictures of villagers travelling on top of trains.

By 2020, the Railways needs to procure 5,334 diesel locomotives and 4,281 electric locos, spending an estimated Rs 1,20,000 crore. Given that its production units are overburdened, the Railways has decided to procure locos through public private partnerships. The Railways also does not have the resources to adequately fund its massive capital expansion needs on its own, given a surging wage bill which has significantly inflated its overheads.

The Railway Board will soon finalise a tender, to be opened in a few months, for procurement of electric locomotives vis-a-vis a joint venture with the private sector in Madhepura in Bihar. Another tender for a similar diesel loco manufacturing plant may also happen this year. Together, the two contracts are said to be worth around Rs 40,000 crore spread over a supply period of 10 years.

Keen to Join the Bandwagon

According to the plan, the Railways will provide land while the selected bidder would set up the infrastructure and assure a roll-out for a given number of years. The Railways plan to acquire around 800 electric locos from the private sector player. The modalities of the diesel loco project are being worked out. Given the massive procurement plans of the Railways, India has become an exciting market for international manufacturers.

This is why Bombardier, Siemens, GE, AlstomBSE -0.33 % and EMD have all become aggressive about their presence here. Several cities in India are also constructing Metro rail system, which opens up an additional market for these companies which manufacture coaches, locomotives, signalling systems, etc.

Bombardier for instance has set up a new Railway vehicle manufacturing site at Savli, Vadodara, Gujarat, as well as a propulsion systems manufacturing facility and software development centre for signalling and traction applications in Vadodara.

GE India has announced plans to set up a facility that will also manufacture diesel locomotives in Maharashtra with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore. “We are targeting India. We will participate in the tender to be floated soon by the Indian Railways for 1,000 electric locomotives. We are willing to offer 10% cheaper rates than other companies,” Alstom’s locomotive platform director Jean-Marc Tessier had said in an interview earlier in France. While EMD has been a long-standing technology partner for diesel locomotives with the Railways, Siemens too plans to cash in on the opportunity.

Slow, But Not Steady

For the Railways, these tenders would mean a generational change in the way it approaches procurement. As of now, the national transporter manufactures its own locomotives and coaches as well as relies on imports. However, the idea of assuring a massive off-take to two private players is something that the usually conservative railway board is slowly waking up to.

As of now, the Railways has the least amount of exposure to the private sector among other infrastructure segments. Critics have often accused the board of moving at a snail’s pace in opening the doors to companies. Although the two projects were approved in 2006 during the regime of Lalu Prasad, the projects could never take-off on account of procedural issues. In 2008, after getting the cabinet approvals, the Railways floated tenders for setting up a diesel loco factory in Marora and an electric loco factory at Madhepura.

The tender ran into controversy as only GE submitted a bid for the diesel locos. railway officers say at that point, they were in no position to grant the contract as it would then be perceived to have been given on nomination, which would have been in conflict with CAG norms. There have also been sharp differences among Railway Board members over these contracts with some officers having objected to the manner in which the concessions were being devised.

Yet to Gather Steam

Taking into account the kind of infighting taking place at the Railway Board over these projects, the Prime Minister’s Office has started demanding time-bound action on these projects. However, the bureaucratic tussles at the board are still coming in the way of a quick closure of the issue. Recently, there was a debate on whether the winning bidder would be paid an advance for the first set of locos that they would import prior to setting up the facility in India.

A member of the board who retired recently has floated a strongly worded note objecting to such practices. On the controversy, Railway Board member (electrical), Kul Bhushan declined to comment. “The tender should be out soon and we are working towards it. Please appreciate that we are following the due process,” he said.’

There is also a talk about the turf war between the electrical and mechanical wings of the Railway Board. It is said that the mechanical department, which was earlier the sole guardian of locomotives, is unhappy that the electrical wing has got a huge role in this area of expertise due to the rising demand for electric locomotives over diesel locos.’

Globally, All’s Charged Up

This is a phenomenon taking place across the world with several countries going in for electric locomotives although a majority in use today run on diesel. The International Railway Journal says there are around 47,000 electric locomotives currently in operation worldwide with an average age of around 27 years. While the proportion of electric locomotives has increased considerably in the past few years, diesel traction remains dominant. Electric locomotives account for less than 30% of all locomotives worldwide.

Matheran toy train will operate till 9pm

If you’ve taken even a few weekend trips away from the city, chances are you’ve been on the Neral-Aman Lodge-Matheran toy train. Now, the 105-year-old train chugs along over 21 kilometres of ghats will get a makeover. The Central Railway (CR) is taking different measures to sustain the service that has been running into losses. These include strengthening the tracks, extending services to later in the evening and renovating the railway station. Currently, the railways incur an annual expense of Rs. 16 crore in maintaining and operating the diesel locomotives. The fare box collection is only Rs. 30-40lakh.

“It is impossible to operate the services with such a high investment and such low returns. Therefore, we will try different ways to increase the revenue. We are also working on reducing the cost of operations by making technical improvements,” said Subodh Jain, general manager, CR.

The railways are trying to increase the speed and capacity of service by adding more coaches and a rear engine to the existing train. Currently, a five-coach train runs along the Neral-Matheran stretch. The administration is planning to extend this to eight coaches.

In addition, the plans of starting services at night are also at an inception stage. “Currently, the last train from Matheran leaves at 6.30pm, but there is a huge demand for night trains from tourists and locals. Therefore, we will request the commissioner of railway safety to add two more services after sunset that will allow these trains to operate till 9pm and allow luggage to be transported after that,” added Jain.

The administration has also added 5-seater luxury family coach to the toy train. The coach has a sofa couch and a camera fitted outside it, which will enable the commuters seated inside to enjoy the view without opening the windows.

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reducing Carbon Emissions from Running Trains

Indian Railways have taken up a clean diesel project, to reduce the emissions from diesel locomotives and to bring them in consonance with the international emission standards. As part of the project, an initial feasibility study has been completed. Phase-II of the project for developing a prototype system for a locomotive is under process.

Indian Railways consumes about 2.5 billion liters of diesel annually. A work for Rs. 4.39 crore has been sanctioned for consultancy for reduction of exhaust emissions from diesel locos of Indian Railways.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways, Shri Bharatsinh Solanki in a written reply in Rajya Sabha today.