Concerned over increased burden on its coffers due to recent fuel price hike, Indian Railways, largest bulk consumer of diesel in the country, have decided to cut costs by using alternative sources like bio-diesel in a big way for powering their vast fleet of locomotives.

It has decided to set up an integrated bio-diesel plant at Chennai with an aim to gradually reduce dependence on high speed diesel which powers its fleet of over 7500 diesel locomotives.

Tenders have been floated. The entire work is expected to be over in two years from the date of starting the project, a senior Railway official said.

Diesel locomotives cater to 60 per cent of the rail traffic in the country, hauling both passenger and freight trains. Railways foot a bill of about Rs. 4500 crore annually and calculates an additional burden of Rs. 460 crore on its resources with the hike in fuel prices last month.

“A small reduction in fuel consumption through use of alternate cheaper fuel, efficient engine and improved technology can result in substantial savings in fuel bills. Besides, the alternate fuel needs to be environmental friendly and without requiring any change in locomotive design,” he said.

Railways consume approximately two million kl of diesel every year.

High speed diesel blended with bio-diesel will be used to cut cost. Initially it will be five per cent and gradually will be increased to 20 per cent in the years to come, the official said.

Extensive trials have already been conducted using bio-diesel in different proportions on railway locomotives and results have been found satisfactory, he said.

The move comes as Railways are also investing in CNG to run a sizeable number of diesel locomotives.

Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels, spearheading the project, has laid down strict guidelines for the plant towards environment protection.

The official said the plant design should be such that its operation must result in reduction of green house gas emission and should be able to qualify for earning carbon credit points.

Railways have already gone in for massive plantation of ’Jatropha’, producing oil as a diesel substitute.

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