S. African railway Spoornet to hire drivers, buy locos

Mamuni Das

New Delhi, Nov.1

It's not just the Indian IT geeks who are in demand globally; Indian Railway drivers have also caught the attention of overseas organisations. South African railway Spoornet wants locomotive drivers as well as locomotives from Indian Railways.

While actual orders are yet to be placed, official sources confirm that Spoornet has evinced interest in huge numbers that could run into "hundreds of loco drivers as well as diesel and electric locomotives from Indian Railways." At present, Indian Railways has about 60,000-70,000 loco drivers and assistant drivers.

Spoornet's extent of demand could be gauged from the fact that it recently announced plans to acquire 374 new locomotives at a total estimated cost of Rand 8.5 billion (about Rs 5,100 crore) over the next five years. During the same period, Spoornet plans to upgrade 514 locomotives at an estimated total cost of Rand 3.7 (about Rs 2,200 crore).

Spoornet represents the rail freight and long distance transportation interests of Transnet, a commercialised organisation with the South African State as its sole shareholder.

Loco manufacturing

The demand for locos augurs well for Indian Railways, which is planning to ramp up its loco manufacturing capacity to serve domestic as well as offshore demand. It plans to set up two factories with an annual capacity to manufacture 150 diesel locomotives and 120 electric locomotives. It proposes to set up these units in joint venture with global loco manufacturing majors. At present, the total loco production capacity in the country is about 300 a year. They are produced at Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, and Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, which are loco units of Indian Railways. Officials point out that Indian Railways is increasingly getting active in the international railway arena. It has signed memorandums of understanding with French Railways (SNCF), German Railways (Deutsche Bahn), Russian Railways, Italian Railways, South African Railways and Austrian Railways among others in recent times.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 2, 2006)
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