Railway engines: Alstom starts production, GE gets first locomotive

New Delhi: In a fillip to ‘Make in India’, two railway locomotive projects coming up in Bihar at an estimated cost of Rs40,000 crore witnessed a flurry of activity on Wednesday.

While Alstom’s electric locomotive unit started production of the first electric engine at Madhepura, GE received its first diesel engine prototype imported from the US in Mumbai that would be manufactured at Marhaura.

Commissioned by the government in 2015, the units are joint ventures between Indian Railways and the two companies. According to the agreements, the joint venture with Alstom will manufacture and supply modern electric locomotives, while the one with GE will make diesel engines.

Alstom’s senior vice president Asia Pacific Jean-Francois Beaudoin said: “The E-loco project is one of the most prestigious projects for Alstom worldwide and is a multimillion euro investment by the company. In order to make a difference in Indian market, we need local expertise, competitive manufacturing capacity and close relationships with our customers. The commencement of production at the plant is a perfect testimony to our strategy to develop and grow a localized ecosystem to bring wide reaching benefits for railways and the community at large.”

The company’s Madhepura facility is spread across 250 acres and currently employs 70 people. It plans to ramp up production by 25% every year till it full capacity is reached. Alstom says its first locomotive will be ready for roll-out early next year.

The first five locomotives will be completed by 2019 followed by 35 locomotives by 2020, 60 in 2021, and by 100 every year till the target of 800 is reached. The company is also setting-up two maintenance depots at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Nagpur in Maharashtra.

Indian Railways plans to buy 1,800 engines from the two facilities over 11 years. Under the agreements, 1,000 diesel locomotives will be manufactured by the GE-led venture with a basic cost of Rs 14,656 crore, while the Alstom-led venture will manufacture and supply 800 electric locomotives at a basic cost of Rs 19,904 crore.

Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO, GE South Asia said, “Through this project, we’re creating a robust supply chain ecosystem in India, and will localize more than 70% of all content. We’re proud of the more than 6,000 jobs that have been created by GE in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and remain committed to our work in the country.”

GE is building two locomotive models for Indian Railways. The first is a dual-cab locomotive with a 4,500-horsepower engine.

The second features a 6,000-horsepower engine. The firm claims it will produce India’s first diesel-electric locomotive that complies with the international standard on emissions, known as UIC 1.

Interestingly, while the company is happy with its performance, the Indian Railways which plans to be completely electrified by 2022 is still trying to find ways to honour the contract it has with GE as the latter had warned the national carrier of consequences in case of a termination of contract. After the company’s statement, the railway minister Piyush Goyal had made a media statement on 29 September that the project is on track and when Indian Railways’ needs are changed, the company would be informed in time.