Faced with high fuel costs in running its fleet of diesel trains, the railways ministry — headed by Pawan Kumar Bansal — has initiated grand plans to retrofit diesel locomotives and make them run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), cutting fuel costs by as much as 40%.
Losses of the Indian Railways from passenger services are estimated at Rs. 25,000 crore.
Projected revenues of Rs.6,600 crore from this month's decision, hiking the prices of passenger tickets, have substantially been offset by the subsequent government's decision to hike diesel prices — which will drill a hole as big as Rs.4,000 crore in the railways' pockets. .
In his upcoming budget speech next month, Bansal is likely to elaborate on plans for inducting state-of-the-art technology to make Indian locomotives run on LNG.
Canadian green engine maker Westport Innovations Inc has been roped in by the Railways for technological support.
"The Rail Design and Standards Organisation will soon conduct trials on 100 diesel locomotives. The trials will be completed within one year," a source said.
The annual fuel bill of the Indian Railways adds up to Rs.14,000 crore for running approximately 4,000 diesel engines for mainline operations.
Plans are being worked out envisage conversion of around 2,000 diesel engines over a five year period.
One diesel engine annually burns 6 lakh litres of diesel at a cost of Rs.4 crore.
In its lifetime of 36 years, the fuel bill of one locomotive works out to R144 crore — out of which R50 crore can be saved through an LNG retrofitted engine.