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Alstom-Railways JV struggles to meet locomotive target

The Electric Locomotive Factory at Madhepura in Bihar was one of the two major locomotive projects awarded in 2015 as part of the Make in India initiative, the second being a joint venture with GE. The Rs 20,000 crore Madhepura project was tasked ...

, ET Bureau|
Nov 11, 2019, 11.40 PM IST
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The Rs 10,000 crore Marhowra facility, the joint venture with GE, will make 1,000 diesel locomotives in 11 years.
NEW DELHI: Alstom SA’s joint venture with the Indian Railways, which has to supply 35 electric locomotives to the national transporter in the current financial year, is struggling to meet deadlines and could be at risk of cancellation, said officials with knowledge of the matter.

Alstom hasn’t been able to supply any engines yet, with the locomotives having failed multiple trial runs, they said. “Prima facie, if a design condition is not met and a period (specified for delivery) expires, contract cancellation becomes the automatic route,” said one of the officials, who described the venture as a “failure.”

The Electric Locomotive Factory at Madhepura in Bihar was one of the two major locomotive projects awarded in 2015 as part of the Make in India initiative, the second being a joint venture with General Electric (GE). The Rs 20,000 crore Madhepura project was tasked with manufacturing 800 high-powered locomotives in 11years. The joint venture is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the railway sector.

The Rs 10,000 crore Marhowra facility, the joint venture with GE, will make 1,000 diesel locomotives in 11years. Indian Railways owns a 26% stake in both, with the overseas partner holding the rest. The French company didn’t respond to queries and neither did Indian Railways. Calls and messages to Railway Board chairman VK Yadav were unanswered. The French company said in March last year that the plant was on schedule.

“Alstom announced the completion of its first all-electric locomotive from its state-of-theart locomotive facility at Madhepura in the state of Bihar, on schedule,” it had said in a statement. The locomotive that had been manufactured at the Alstom plant and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “gathering dust,” said one of the officials. The company is still in the process of making changes to the specifications of the locomotive, said one of the officials cited above. The Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), part of the railway ministry, conducted two trials of the WAG12 locomotive, according to an official status report—the first on July 23-25 last year and the second on April 10-12 this year.

“In both trials, the loco could not pass the laid down criteria,” the report said. “Further modifications in bogie and suspension of loco are also parallely (sic) being done.” One official cast doubt on the Alstom’s expertise. “This is a new design they are working on,” the person said. “I am not sure they (Alstom) have the capability in bogie design.”
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