New Delhi: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said the work on a diesel locomotive factory in Bihar's Marhowrah is on tracks, amid speculation that the government might exit the project contract with US giant General Electric as it seeks to promote electrification.
The project, a joint venture between the Indian Railways and the GE, was announced in 2006-07 to supply modern diesel electric locomotives of 4,500 HP and 6,000 HP to the railways.
The railways had issued the Letter of Award for setting up Diesel Locomotive Factory (DLF) with GE Global Sourcing India in November 2015.
But with government's thrust on electrification of track to combat pollution, there was a buzz, and some media reports, that it could exit the contract for manufacturing diesel locomotive.
However, Goyal today said, "The Marhowrah factory has been set up and I don't think any change is happening."
Goyal said he had a discussion with top executives of GE to explore how the objectives of reducing pollution, bringing down overall cost and honouring agreements with the global conglomerate be met.
Goyal said he discussed the GE executives as to how their locomotives could be useful for the railways, considering its emphasis on electrification.
"Can we explore opportunities that some of these (locos) could be exported? Can we look at opportunities where we can meet the objectives of reducing pollution, saving cost and make sure the contracts and agreements that are made by the Railways continue to serve the people of India," Goyal said.
He was responding to a question on the status of the Marhowra project during a press conference here.
Manoj Sinha, Goyal's deputy in the Ministry of Railways, was more forthright. "There will be no danger to the GE (project)," he said.
Sinha, however, was quick to add, "It's no rocket science to convert a diesel locomotive to an electric one. If it can happen in Varanasi, then it can happen anywhere."
He said the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi has been making both electric and diesel locos.
Elaborating on the electrification project, Goyal said it has picked pace over last three years and the railways intend to cover 4,000 kms next year.
"In view of the thrust to address the issues of pollution and climate change," he said, "you will appreciate that going in for electrification of railways in a much faster manner is in the interest of people of India."
It will also save over a billion dollars in a year in terms of our fuel cost, Goyal said.