As Railways Dithers On Annual Targets, Full Electrification Will Take Longer
Overhead electric poles stand over a rail track in Bana village in the district of Latehar, Jharkhand. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

As Railways Dithers On Annual Targets, Full Electrification Will Take Longer

India is likely to miss its target of railway electrification of broad-gauge routes this financial year, which could delay the government’s deadline of bringing all train routes in the nation under the grid by 2021-22.

Indian Railways has electrified less than a third of its targeted 7,000 route kilometres of railroad as on November, the transporter said in response to queries by BloombergQuint under the Right to Information Act. The Ministry of Railways now plans to electrify 7,000 route km of train routes in the next two fiscals each and 7,800 route km in the year ending March 2023, according to its response.

That’s a significant step down from its previous targets. The Union Cabinet, on Sept. 12, 2018, approved 100 percent electrification of Indian Railways’ broad gauge network of 64,300-odd km by 2021-22. Former Minister of State (Railways) Rajen Gohain said in response to a question in Parliament on Feb. 6 this year that the government targets electrification of 10,500 route km of railway routes each in the next two fiscals.

Yet, documents obtained by BloombergQuint under the RTI, Parliamentary answers and budget documents show Indian Railways has had a poor track record of meeting its targets, missing them in seven out of the last nine fiscals. The highest shortfall was in the year ended March 2011, when it fell short by 93 percent. It, however, surpassed its targets in FY13 and FY18.

The year-wise electrification target was pieced together with data from the RTI responses, and Parliamentary replies and budget documents available on the transporter’s official website. That’s because when BloombergQuint sought details of year-wise electrification targets and date of completion for a period of 14 years from FY10 via RTI, railways responded with data only for the next three fiscals.

Nearly 58 percent of the broad-gauge routes in India are already electrified as on Nov. 1, 2019, according to a written statement submitted by Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in Rajya Sabha.

The government has identified 168 projects comprising 29,537.48 route km across various states/zones, of which 25,016.48 route km are yet to be electrified, the statement said.

Of this, 23,709 route km comes under the 17 zones of Indian Railways and the remaining 1,307 route km come under the six cross zones that the railways have identified, Goyal was quoted as saying in the statement.

And various railway zones are gearing up to achieve 100 percent electrification.

Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd., an autonomous body that operates a 741-km rail line between Mumbai and Mangaluru in Karnataka that crosses through hills, river valleys and forests in three states, said it would electrify its network completely by March 2021, according to the railway minister’s reply in Parliament.

The government, however, doesn’t plan to electrify narrow-gauge and meter-gauge routes due to the “low traffic density routes” and that they comprise less than 10 percent of the railway network, the ministry said in a written statement in Parliament on Feb. 6 this year.

The railways is surveying certain routes, to check if they can be electrified depending on the “feasibility and operational considerations”, the statement said.

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