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Karnataka lagging in railway electrification

Anil Kumar Sastry
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Only 5.34 p.c. of the network is electrified

Even after a decade of the formation of South Western Railway that caters to major geographical areas of Karnataka, just over 5 per cent of railway lines in the State have electrification as against the national average of 34 per cent.

Of the 3,000-km railway network within the State, only about 160 km, amounting to 5.34 per cent, have electrification, while Kerala has 51.43 per cent of such network (540 km of 1,050 km); Tamil Nadu 30.08 per cent (1,235 km of 4,106 km); Maharashtra 36.87 per cent (2,065 km of 5,601 km) and Andhra Pradesh 48.08 per cent (2,493 km of 5,185 km).

The only line with complete electrification in the State is the Bangalore-Chennai line. Electrification of Bangalore-Mysore line is on. Other than these lines, none of the railway lines in the State figure in the railway electrification map.

Benefits

Electrification of railway lines is seen as a way forward in the bulk movement of freight and passengers for its efficiency and cheap operation.

As power is produced either using gas or coal, electrification is expected to reduce air pollution drastically.

Also, the use of regenerative braking system adopted on electric lines, where power is pushed back to the grid whenever brakes are applied, is seen as another advantage. The only hindrance is higher initial investment.

Based on returns

A senior Indian Railway official told The Hindu that electrification depends upon the commercial returns from the line. It is justified on lines which witness heavy freight movement, which is why majority of lines in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa, which transport minerals and coal, have electrification.

The freight density in the State is not so high, he said.

The other obvious reason is political pressure which has been lacking in the case of Karnataka, be it introduction of new trains or construction of new lines, which also apply in the case of railway electrification, the official said.

Even the zonal railway administration becomes responsible in railway infrastructure growth as majority of officials posted in South Western Railway lack the feeling of “belongingness”, he said. Though the administrative reforms committee had recommended a comprehensive mixture of officers from within as well as outside the State for better administration, the same has not happened in South Western Railway, he regretted.

Lobby

There has also been a strong lobby by the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME), which apparently feels becoming redundant if complete electrification happens.

A note on railway electrification on its website, http://irsme.nic.in/files/FACT_RLY_ELC.pdf, among other things, states that one electric loco of 4.5 MW (6,000 HP) deprives 15,000 households of their electrical needs; electric traction requires huge investment; electricity generation (thermal) too causes heavy environment pollution.

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