LAHORE - Half of the 29 electric locomotives of the Pakistan Railways (PR) have turned into scrap and rest are rusting in the engine shed of the department with authorities’ no plan to use them properly, TheNation has learnt.

Official sources informed The Nation that Rs33 billion could be saved every year by replacing the diesel engines of the Railways’ fleet with that of electric ones. They further added that 30 per cent less number of electric engines were required to meet demand of the department as compared to the diesel operated locos.    

The PR used its electric locomotives for passenger trains till 2008. Later, the authorities decided to abolish the electric locomotion entirely. The project was commissioned in 70s for the 260km Lahore-Khanewal route. At that time, the entire cost of the project including construction and erection of infrastructure, establishment of grid stations, substations and 29 engines was Rs140 million.

An official in background discussion said, “The project was launched in order to modernise the system and save scarce foreign exchange required for import of fuel for diesel locomotives. But, ironically we have now applied the back gear when entire world and even third world countries are going for electrification of rail network.”

It is a common belief among officials that there is a powerful pro-diesel-engine lobby in the Railways which don’t want modernisation.

“Yes, they earn millions in term of kickbacks every year when parts are required for diesel engines,” they said. The officials added that India electrifies rail network on around 1,000km span per year but PR abolished the already existed one.

“The Railways can save Rs11 billion on account of less fuel consumption if efficiency of electric engines is compared with that of diesel ones in term of gross tonne kilometre (GTKM).

Rs 3 billion can be saved in maintenance account, Rs2.8b in turn around, Rs0.305b in fuel handling, Rs0.34b in term of less staff requirement, Rs1.275b for using electric appliances and so on.” It was informed that Rs11 billion could be earned as additional revenue by making the train using electric engine fully air-conditioned. The official said that 200MW electricity was required to run all the trains of the country.

“Keeping aside the power shortage issue, if the PR decides to re-launch electric locomotives, it can earn billions of rupees using only one per cent (200MW) of total power required for the country,” he said.

There are estimates that Rs 69 billion would be spent to electrify train network from Karachi to Peshawar and from Rohri to Quetta and investors could be arranged on BOT basis. The whole process needed almost three years to complete, said the official.

Another official said that after many copper theft incidents at various points along the track and on account of lack of funds for replacing these locomotives, the Railways suspended the electric engine service. Similarly, he added, that electric track was removed after a decision to double the Khanewal-Raiwind track.

He said if the PR was serious, running electric locomotives again was not a problem. He further said that 84 employees hired for electric locomotives were transferred to other departments.