The Indian Railways, the good old nostalgia-inducing workhorse of our country, has been taking a few financial hits, over the past year. However, it has always endeavoured to innovate by trying to come up with new ways to cut travel time, reduce costs, and provide a satisfactory passenger experience—each of them a mammoth task since millions of people use trains every day.
It is indeed difficult to keep the nation’s population comfortable while in transit. Braving all odds, and being a backbone of our country and economy is no easy task, and the Railways have always delivered.
Over time, the Railways have conceptualised and executed projects to increase efficiency, but some have stood out for their impact. Here are five such initiatives—
1) Switching to LED’s: Palakkad Railway Division saved a whopping Rs 62.3 lakhs in electricity bill payment, in 2016-2017. They switched to LED bulbs and boards, energy efficient fans and AC units. Out of 95 stations in the division, 75 now use LED lights.
Out with the old, in with the new seems to be the mantra, as 400-watt metal halide lights made way for 160 watts LED floodlights. The neon station boards were replaced with LED-based boards at Palakkad Junction, Shoranur Junction, Kozhikode and Thalassery.
Energy efficient Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) fans (which save around 30 watts in comparison to regular fans) and inverter type AC units were also used, and a 10KW and 20KW solar power plant at the DRM’s office and the Railway Hospital in Palakkad were installed. A 3kwp plant at Thalassery and a 2kwp plant at Parali railway stations have also started functioning.
2) Electric Locomotives: A 12000 HP loco from Alstom, France, arrived at Kolkata Port, in September. This high-power electric locomotive will be used total freight trains at twice the existing speed, come 2018.
A deal inked in November 2015, between the Railways and the French company, resulted in the impending manufacture of 800 such engines over the next 11 years. Incidentally, this is the first major FDI project in the rail sector. The locomotive costs around Rs 30 crore and will be assembled and tested in February 2018.
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Only the first five locomotives will be imported; the remaining 795 will be made indigenously with the delivery spread between 2018 and 2028. According to a railway official in the Hindustan Times, the increased speed would improve line capacity in the rail network.
3) Solar-powered local commute: Platform roofs turned into electricity mediums under the ‘Mission 41K’ scheme ensuring that the Indian Railways will save approximately Rs 4100 crore in electricity bills, between 2015 to 2025.
Panels have an installed capacity of 4,750kW or 4.7Mw of power. The Western Railway in Mumbai, wishes to install these panels in 23 locations on the Churchgate-Virar route. 240 rakes on the Western and Central Railway together in Mumbai, need around 450-500Mw of electricity to run.
The installation of these panels will result in a minimum expected saving of Rs 90,000 per day, a senior WR official, informed DNA. The WR wants to power tube lights, fans, lighting at food stalls, passenger announcement systems and other ancillaries with solar power.
4) Bio-toilets: Bio-digester toilets, which break down solid waste into carbon dioxide, methane and water, are being considered, with December 2018 being a deadline, as against 2019.
The Railways plan to install bio-toilets will help in the long run, as the waste coming out of trains, corrodes tracks and sleepers, necessitating more than regular maintenance work. The waste is also a terrible inconvenience for people living around railway lines and can enter and contaminate groundwater.
5) Solar-powered diesel-electric train: In July, the Railways launched a solar-powered diesel-electric multiple unit train, from the Safdarjung Railway Station in Delhi.
The train had 16 solar panels, each producing 300 Wp, in 6 coaches. The train has a power back-up and can run on battery for at least 72 hours.
Suresh Prabhu, former Railway Minister, claimed this was part of the plan of the Indian Railways to promote clean and renewable energy. Once the project is implemented, the expected annual saving is approximately Rs 700 crore.
The method also saves the railways 5.25 lakh litres of diesel per such train in 25 years and three crores per train in the same period. The environmental benefit? Reduction of 1,350 carbon dioxide emission per train in 25 years.