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Economies of T RACTION D IESEL V S E LECTRIC How Competitive are the Diesels ? Is there a need for further Electrification in Indian Railways ? R ailway E lectrification is j ustified on various Grounds Modernization Energy Efficiency Depleting Oil Reserves Savings in Foreign Exchange

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economies of t raction d iesel v s e lectric
  • How Competitive are the Diesels ?
  • Is there a need for further Electrification in Indian Railways ?
r ailway e lectrification is j ustified on various grounds
Railway Electrification is justified on various Grounds
  • Modernization
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Depleting Oil Reserves
  • Savings in Foreign Exchange
  • Marginally Capital intensive, but much cheaper operationally
  • More Economical
  • Enables higher speeds and improved throughput
  • Higher hauling capability
  • Eco-friendly

How true is the above ?

electric traction 1881
Electric Traction - 1881

After many decades of satisfactory performance, the steam engines were to give way to more modern locomotives. The year 1881 saw the birth of the first electric Railway run by a German Engineer Werner Van Siemens using both the rails to carry the current. Finding this a little too dangerous, Siemens soon adopted the overhead electric wires. Electric locomotives today raun on Rail roads in many countries.

diesel traction 1912
Diesel Traction - 1912

The diesel engine was invented in the year 1893, by a young German Engineer, called Rudolf Diesel. But it was only nineteen years later, that the first Diesel locomotive came into existence.

Since then, diesel traction has grown from strength to strength. Over 89,000 Diesel locomotives have been built in the world so far, the General Motors, USA alone contributing to as many as 56,000 Locomotives.

superior technology diesel or electric
Superior Technology -Diesel or Electric ?

Diesel Traction is thus a far more recent technology, as compared to Electric traction. One reason why there are more diesels in the world than electric locos and why more and more are produced year after year.

Railways in Europe and some other advanced countries had started Electrification many years before the modern Diesels came on the scene.

In fact, Railways in modern economies like US, Australia, etc. are de-electrifying including Suburban services.

superior technology diesel or electric ii
Superior Technology -Diesel or Electric ? - (ii)

Diesel locomotive is in fact an Electric Locomotive carrying its own powerhouse. Today’s modern Diesel locomotives with 6 KMs of Electrical wiring is much more Electric than an Electric locomotive with 4 KMs of wire.

Electric locomotive provides an easy means of drawing larger units of power from the OHE for the same axle load.

Development of Technology for Low weight energy efficient engine and its controls delayed the advent of modern diesel locomotives.

superior technology diesel or electric iii
Superior Technology -Diesel or Electric ? - (iii)

Today, technological development in both tractions has levelled of.

Diesel locos with Electric transmission have all the benefits of modern technology such as AC-AC transmission.

And for the same weight, Diesel traction has 10% or higher load hauling capability.

It is conceded that technology of high speed Passenger operation beyond 220 Kmph has advanced on Electric traction, but this is perhaps quite irrelevant to us today.

world railways status of electrification
World Railways - Status of Electrification

Source : Rail Business Report, 1999

electrification on ir
Electrification on IR

It is often said that

Electrification on IR is hardly 24.5% of total network.

The truth is

  • Total Network includes BG, MG as well as NG and is 62759 KMs.
  • Actual BG Route Kilometers are 44383
  • BG Running Track KMs are 62441
  • Electrified Running Track KMs - 27946
  • which is 44.8% of BG Running Track KMs.
world s stock of mainline locomotives
World’s Stock of Mainline Locomotives

Population of Diesel Locos in the World is 3.2 times that of the Electric locomotives (Source: World Bank Railway Database 2000)

electrification on ir ii
Electrification on IR (ii)
  • Railway Electrification on the IR was taken up in a big way in the late 70s, as a knee jerk reaction to the 1974 oil crisis.
  • Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE) was created to speedily electrify the high density routes; this task has already been completed in the early 90s. While talking of 1980 Secretary’s report, we have blanked off Gujral Committee Recommendations and the falling crude prices in later years.
  • It is felt that Electrification of Low density non-viable and uneconomic routes continues unabated, perhaps to sustain the organisation.
  • Time has perhaps come, to pause and examine if the need for further electrification still persists.
energy efficiency
Energy Efficiency
  • Sometimes Electric traction is perceived as more energy efficient, by wrongly computing the efficiency from the Overhead wire, in stead of from the Primary Source of Energy, viz., Coal / Oil (used in producing electricity in power houses)
  • The energy efficiency of Traction should however be calculated right from the Primary source of Power, taking into account, losses occurring at every stage.

(For example, in production of Electricity in Power houses and Transmission and Distribution)

energy efficiency ii



Source :The Economics of Railway Traction by

Dr. J. Majumdar (Mcgraw Hill & Co.)

overall efficiency
Overall Efficiency

1. Fuel

2. Theoretical efficiency of Diesel Cycle (for a volumetric compression ratio of 1:16)

3. Boiler efficiency (in electric operation: efficiency of steam power plant)

4. Indicated efficiency

5. Mechanical efficiency of diesel engine (auxiliaries included)

6. Efficiency of power transmission to axles

7. Theoretical efficiency of cycle in electric operation

8. Indicated efficiency and mechanical and electrical efficiency of the entire turbo-a.c. converter (auxiliaries included)

9. Efficiency of power transmission from power plant to substation

10. Efficiency of converter and of power transmission from substation input to current collector, return current losses included

11.Electro-mechanical efficiency of locomotive at the driving wheels, allowing for feed-water heating to 100 deg. C by exhaust stem.

energy efficiency iii
Energy Efficiency (iii)


The table proves that Electric traction as energy efficient is a myth

availability of oil reserves
Availability of Oil (Reserves)

Will there be any Oil after 30 years ? ? ?

  • Ever since Col. Blake discovered oil in 1857, this is the usual pessimistic refrain that we hear.
  • Arthur Anderson/Cambridge Energy Research Associates reports:
    • In 1970, the reserves were estimated to last 33.78 years
    • In 1980, the estimate was 33 years despite increase in consumption by 30%
    • In 1999, oil reserves were estimate to last 43 years despite increase in consumption by 43%
oil in india
Oil in India
  • India is the least explored region for oil

Well density

per 100 Sq. Km

India 20

World 100

  • In 1998, prognosticated hydrocarbon reserves in India were as high as 17 Billion tonnes that can last for 400 years at the consumption rate of 46 Million tonnes per year during that year.
  • India consumes 2% of World’s oil, while Indian Railway uses only 1.7% of India ‘s Oil. (Source : TERI Year Books)
availability of oil
Availability of Oil

The Government is investing Rs.54 400 Crores in connecting the Golden Quadrilateral and diagonals by Super Highways.

Almost every Automobile / Light Motor Vehicle Manufacturer continues to expand their production capacities.

fuel cells
Fuel Cells
  • A simple device uses Hydrogen from fuel combines with Oxygen and produces electricity.
  • No noise, no smoke and no moving parts
  • As per International Railway Journal of March 2000, Fuel Cell Trains shall be a reality by 2008.
  • A breakthrough has already been achieved by BHEL, Hydrabad
  • All Overhead wires will then become redundant !!!
  • Diesel locos can be easily converted by replacing engine with fuel cell.
bio diesels
Bio - Diesels
  • Renewable fuels from bio sources
  • include
    • Ethanol
    • Bio diesel
    • Bio hydrogen
    • Biogases

As given by Dr.D.K.TULI, Chief Research Manager - IOC on 21-08-2002

why bio diesel is important for railways
Why Bio diesel is important for Railways ?
  • Indian Rail has very large available land
  • Bio diesel will help Railways to :
    • Improve upon emission norms
    • eventually reduce diesel cost
    • redeploy surplus manpower
    • contribute to environment protection
importance of bio diesel
Importance of Bio diesel
  • Environment friendly
  • Clean burning
  • Renewable fuel
  • No engine modification
  • Increase in engine life
  • Biodegradable and non-toxic
  • Easy to handle and store
bio diesel process at ioc r d
Bio diesel process at IOC (R & D)
  • Base Catalyzed transesterification of oil

Raw Materials Used

  • Rice Bran Oil
  • Sun flower oil
  • Mohuva Oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Japtropha oil
  • Karanjia Oil

Scale : 100 g to 60 Kg batch

the indian scene
The Indian Scene
  • Annual Growth rate -8% compared to world average of 2%
  • Oil pool deficit & subsidies Rs.16,000 Crores, Rs.18,440 Crores (1996-97)
  • Current per capital usage of petroleum is abysmally low (0.1 ton / year) against 4.0 in Germany or 1.5 tons in Malaysia
  • Even Malaysia’s figure would be beyond our paying capacity
  • Our domestic production would meet only 33% of demand at the end of 10th plan and only 27% by 2010-11
  • Investment in Biofuels make strong Economic sense.
jatropha may be the answer
Jatropha may be the Answer
  • According to the Economic Survey (1995-96), Govt. of India, of the cultivable land area about 100-150 million hectares are classified as waste or degraded land
  • Jatropha (Jatropha curcas, Ratanjyot, wild castor) thrives on any type of soil
    • Needs minimal inputs or management
    • Has no insect, pests & not browsed by cattle or sheep
    • Can survive long periods of drought
    • Propagation is easy
    • Yield from the 3rd year onwards and continues for 25-30 years
    • 25% oil from seeds by expelling 30% by solvent extraction
    • The meal after extraction an excellent organic manure (38% protein, N:P:K ration 2.7:1.2:1)
eu initiatives on biofuels
EU Initiatives on Biofuels
  • Regulatory package COM-2001 / 547 containing action plan and directives
  • 20% alternate fuels for gasoline and diesel by 2020
  • Major options biofuels, natural gas and biohydrogen
  • Biofuels minimum 5.75% in 2010
  • Member states can give tax benefits
  • Bio fuels to include Bio diesel, Bio ethanol, ETBE, Biogas.

Objectives :

  • Reduce dependency on imported oil
  • Greenhouse gas reduction (8% Kyoto)
  • Support agricultural sector
bio diesel potential indian railways an estimate
Bio diesel Potential - Indian RailwaysAn estimate
  • Track length of 1,00,000 km
  • If 50% tract available and 50 meters of both sides
  • Approx. area 5000
  • considering an yield of 2 tons / ha
  • Yield of oil crop 1 MMTPA
  • Approx. Bio diesel potential 200-250,000 tones i.e. about 10% of the Railways’ diesel requirements

Indian Oil as Partner in technology development

The Railway Minister said that Railway Ministry and Indian Oil Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding for a pilot project for production of eco-friendly biodiesel for the Railways.

Courtesy : The Hindu dt. 13th Feb.2003

Every Diesel Loco of 4000 HP put on line adds to the Power Generation Capacity of the country by 3 MW
  • Every Electric Loco of 6000 HP put on line
    • Eats into the Power generation capacity by about 4 to 5 MW *
    • Deprives 15000 Houses of Electric Power
    • Adds to use of inefficient small DG sets by Industrial, Agricultural & Domestic sectors

* Taking into account the Locomotive, Transmission and Distribution Losses.

electrify the railways and dieselise the industry
Electrify the Railways and Dieselise the Industry ??
  • In a country where 14.7% villages are yet to be electrified, can we afford to electrify Railways ?
  • The Energy Policy should ideally aim at replacing inefficient use of Fuel
  • Electrification replaces a highly efficient Turbo charged Railway Diesel locomotive with small sized high inefficient gen-sets resulting in higher consumption of HSD and pollution.
anticipated drains from the power production in future years even with no further electrification
Anticipated Drains from the Power production in future years, even with no further Electrification.
optimum utilisation of energy petroleum
Optimum Utilisation of Energy - Petroleum
  • There is a lot of reluctance in the States for establishing any new coal-based Power Plants in view of the serious limitations like poor quality of coal with high ash and sulphur content, pollution of ash and dust, high cost of developing new coal fields, extreme shortage of water, etc,.
  • Most of the Power houses set up in the country in the last five years and those in the pipe line are based on Petroleum products such as LNG, Diesel, Naptha, etc.
does electrification save foreign exchange
Does Electrification save Foreign Exchange ?
  • Electrification ends up draining the Foreign exchange, instead of saving it.
  • The classic case is Ernakulam - Trivandrum Electrification at Minus 29% rate of return, tapping Power from a Diesel Power station of Nallalam.
  • Capital investment in Power plants is mostly by way of imported equipment.
to sum up
To Sum up,

It is quite obvious that

Electrification of Railways

is leading to:

Dieselisation of the Industry,

Agriculture and Domestic Sector

Increased Fossil Fuel Consumption

and not Reduction

Higher Outflow of Foreign Exchange

and not savings for the Nation

is electric traction only marginally capital intensive41
Is Electric Traction only marginally Capital intensive ?

The Nation pays dearly by spending our scarce Capital to create this vast infrastructure and to sustain it.

On the Diesel traction, a modest engine is all that we require.

Breakeven was given a Go By since no sections on IR in 1996 qualified for Electrification on 49 GMT basis and the CORE was facing a closure.
  • If ROR should only be the criterion, can we de-electrify the low density routes already electrified ?
  • If Oil prices come down, as it did from $36 in 1979 to $9 in 1998, can we attempt de-electrification of the entire country based on ROR ?
recommendations of gujral committee 1990
Recommendations of Gujral Committee - 1990
  • For the period 1990-2005, Electrification of 2510 KMs recommended.
  • Electrification recommended @ 214 Kms per year
  • Sections specifically recommended for Not Electrifying already electrified.
  • Actual Electrification done between 1990 and 2000 has been 5000 KMs which is double of what was recommended.
  • Rate of Electrification is 2.33 times of what was recommended.
line haul costs
Line Haul Costs

The Operational Line Haul Costs for Diesel and Electric Traction are expressed in terms of the Line Haul Costs per 1000 GTKMs of Traffic carried. It has the following components.

-Costs of Fuel, Stores, etc.

-Repair, Maintenance and Operating Expenses.



anomalies in line haul costs
Anomalies in Line Haul Costs
  • OHE Financing through Budgetary support

(Applicable 7% Dividend)

  • Capital-at-charge (Rs.4359 Crore *) of Electrification retained with CORE.
  • Capital-at-charge of Zonal Railway kept low

(Example-WR/43 Crore, SR/69.9 Crore since 1987, CR/120).

  • Interest of full Capital-at-charge Rs.15 per 1000 GTKM
  • ROR worked out for 36 years, slightly less than the OHE Codal life of 40 years to avoid Replacement costs getting reflected.
  • IRFC Lease Hire Charge apportion to Diesel locos only (Example-ER)
  • IRFC Lease Hire charge distributed in proportion of loco holding to the disadvantage of diesel traction where shunting locos also get included.

* Source : 2001-02 (BE) Figure as per Budget Documents Explanatory Memorandum 2001-02

line haul costs54
Line Haul Costs

Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating !!

Diesel Line Haul Cost on

Non-electrified Railways (NE & NF) are significantly lower than that of

Electrified Railways

NE 46.48 65% Lower than IR Ave.

NF 62.10 24% Lower than IR Ave.

line haul costs55
Line Haul Costs

In any case,

the Average Line Haul Cost

derived from the High Density Electrified Routes cannot obviously be Extrapolated to justify the Electrification of Low Density Routes.

procedure for sanction of electrification projects
Procedure for sanction of Electrification Projects
  • Each Electrification Project will be justified on ROR which should exceed 14% with the DCF Method.
  • In certain specific cases, Electrification will be justified on considerations of Operational flexibility
  • Electrification of a single line section (Main Line) will normally not be considered.

The ONLY Recommendation followed is

to Do Away with Breakeven,

due to obvious reasons.

cag report no 9 of 2000 on fuel management
CAG Report No.9 of 2000on FUEL MANAGEMENT


Projected : 14.5%

Actual : (-) 10.25%


Full Diesel Operation Cost : 68.9 Crore

Full Electric Operation Cost : 110.79 Crore

Rate of Return (-) ve


Railways have made no provision for energy meters in locomotives either to monitor the electric energy consumption or to work out the electricity consumed for electric traction of different classes of traffic.

  • The apportionment of electricity consumed between goods and passenger services is being done on an estimated standard specific energy consumption (SEC) for passenger services.
  • The SEC adopted was obviously erroneous. Sometimes, the adopted SEC for passenger traffic resulted in negative consumption for goods traffic.
  • The figures, therefore, have no realistic basis.

Electrification of the main routes picked up momentum in 1970s. By March 1999, 14,050 route kilometres were electrified at the cost of Rs.4,008.55 crores.

  • It is imperative that a review is undertaken now for choice of traction with reference to the operational results of the electrification already done.
  • Review by Audit of 2 electrified sections and a project completion report prepared by the World Bank in 1994 tend to indicate that the projected returns were significantly overstated and could not be achieved.
  • Besides, the expected economy in cost of operation has not fructified having regard to the trend of international oil prices vis-à-vis the sharp rise in domestic electricity costs.
  • Further in Indian conditions, uninterrupted electricity supply to Railways inevitably affects industry adversely.
  • (Para 7)
opportunity cost of investments in electrification
Opportunity Cost of Investments in Electrification

Electrified Route 15,398 KMs

Current Cost 10,000 Crores

Interest Cost @ 16% 1,601 Crores

The interest cost alone can finance CIF value of the Total HSD consumed by IR

The Capital Investment in Electrification can buy 2734 Diesel locos almost the same number that we have today

*@ Average Current Price Rs.63 Lakhs per KM

study by lrdss conclusions
Study by LRDSS Conclusions
  • HP to Load Ratio of 1.5 - Most beneficial & Cost effective. This, of course, pertains to sections near saturation. On Passenger dominant sections, HP to Load Ratio >2 for Diesel also. Further overpowering not recommended. - Benefit insignificant.
  • On Single Line sections, gain under Electric traction is low. (Tract & Other reasons limit the speed improvement). HP to train load ratio is not a traction specific issue.
  • Positive impact of Electric traction on Freight dominant double line sections where HP to trailing Load ratio is low. - 12 - 16% higher line capacity
  • This recommendation of course is not traction specific but only HP specific.
environment issues
Environment Issues
  • Contrary to popular perception, Electric traction is more polluting than Diesel traction.
  • Power for Electric Loco comes from
    • either Diesel based Power station with same level of pollution as Diesel loco
    • Or from Coal based Thermal station whose “Green House” gases emission is 26% more than Diesel loco (UNDP Study)
electric loco environment friendly is that really so
Electric Loco- Environment friendly - Is that really so ??

= 16 Tonnes of coal Ash per day

One Electric Loco of 5000 HP requires 4.2 MW of Power.

One MW of Power requires 10 Tonnes of Coal per day

And at 40% Ash content, generates 4 Tonnes of Coal Ash per day.

Source: Central Electricity Authority Annual Report 1998-99

price of hsd oil
Price of HSD Oil
  • Basic Price * Rs.14.54 per Litre

(including Excise)

  • Inclusive of Sales Tax & Freight the price ranges between Rs.15.12 to Rs.17.69
  • Average Issue Price Rs.16.25 per Litre

* Authority : Board’s rate contract dt.12.1.2001

is electricity overpriced
Is Electricity overpriced ?

Railway Traction needs immune power, with no cuts, warranting duplication of Transmission and Distribution systems, which obviously comes at a Premium.

Unlike HSD, Electricity is subsidised by waiving off Sales Tax and Excise, though it is an Economic Good manufactured and sold.

  • Electric Vs Diesel debate is not an issue of Departmental dominance but Economic survival.
  • Electrification of High Density Traffic Route (49.72 GMT and above) is not being questioned.
  • There is no pressing need for electrifying remaining sections when Railways are facing Financial Disaster.
  • A complete moratorium on Electrification should be place, as an immediate measure.
  • CORE should be wound up.
  • Work of ongoing projects should be executed only by the concerned Railway as is the case with projects of BG conversion, doubling of lines and other Engg. / S&T / Elect. Works, which also overlap on Multiple Railways.