Indian Railways, the country’s single largest high speed diesel guzzler, has initiated a re-look at its energy mix in the backdrop of the recent hike of over Rs 10 a litre in diesel price for bulk users.
Overall, in 2012-13, the diesel cost went up by over Rs 15 a litre, reflecting an increase of over 33 per cent.
COST VS PRODUCTIVITY
Following the hike, two-thirds of the Railways’ annual fuel bill will go towards paying for high speed diesel (HSD), with the remaining for electricity.
However, in terms of productivity, the larger share of work is done by electric locomotives . Close to 65 per cent of freight and 50 per cent of passenger traffic is carried using such locomotives.
In fiscal 2013-14, the Railways’ annual fuel bill is set to touch Rs 24,000 crore. “At the current fuel price, next year, about Rs 16,000 crore will accrue towards paying for diesel consumption,” said a source. The annual electricity bill for the entire Railway network is expected to be around Rs 7,500 crore. This is in sharp contrast to about two years ago, when diesel and electricity accounted for half the fuel bill each.
A team in the Board is working out a fresh cost and productivity analysis for diesel and electric traction. Apart from a possible increase in transportation charges, the Railways is working out multiple strategies to tide over the sudden spurt in diesel price.
To start with, there is likely to be a 25 per cent increase in electrification works next year — something that may find a mention in the forthcoming Railway Budget. About 31 per cent of entire Railways’ network is electrified.
“We expect to close the current fiscal with electrification of 1,200 route km. Next year, we would like to undertake electrification of 1,500 route km,” said another source.
The Railways pays about Rs 5.4 a unit of electricity. Moreover, in about a year, when the Nabinagar captive power plant in Bihar becomes operational, the Railways expects to procure electricity at Rs 3.5 a unit.
However, it will also have to work out a parallel strategy to increase availability of electric locomotives in the short run by procuring more. The Madhepura locomotive plant in Bihar, proposed about five years ago, would have significantly enhanced the loco availability, though that has now been delayed.