Indian Railways’ Electrification Drive: Achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2030

Indian Railways’ Electrification Drive: Achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2030

 As we are moving ahead in the 21st century, we are rapidly developing in all sectors, including the transport sector. There has been a significant change in Indian public transport with the introduction of various technologies in the field of Metro and Railway. However, we not only need development but development that is sustainable. It is the need of the hour to establish an environment-friendly transport network for better Growth. Indian Railways also has recognized this need and has an aim of net zero carbon emission by 2030 for the same.

What is “Net Zero Emission”?

 The term ‘net zero emissions’ implies achieving an equilibrium between the total greenhouse gas emissions generated and the greenhouse gas emissions extracted from the atmosphere. It can be visualized as a balancing scale where the production of greenhouse gas emissions tilts the scale, and the aim is to restore the balance by limiting the addition of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to the same amount that is removed. 

Keeping the environment in priority, Indian Railways has envisioned achieving the target of net zero carbon emission by 2030. With this context, it has taken several measures, and Broad Guage Railway Electrification is one of the significant steps among them. Indian Railways is tirelessly working in electrifying multiple regions of railway and has made crucial efforts towards electrification in recent years. The railway electrification project was initiated to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to promote sustainable development in the country. Indian Railways is committed to electrifying its entire broad gauge (BG) network.

What is Electrification of Railway network? 

Electrification involves converting diesel locomotive-hauled trains to electrically powered ones by installing overhead wires or third rails along the railway tracks. Once the railway network is fully electrified, diesel trains will no longer be used, which will minimize pollution and reduce India’s dependence on imported fuel. 

Over the time, Indian Railways has gained pace in implementing several projects of Railway electrification. Many of the regions and states in Indian railways have achieved 100% electrification. Some of the recently completed projects are:

Uttar Pradesh: on February 21, 2023, the electrification of all broad gauge routes in Uttar Pradesh was completed by the railways. The Shubhagpur-Pachperwa section covering a distance of 85 km in North Eastern Railway, Gorakhpur, was electrified, making all railway lines in the state electrified. This accomplishment brings North Eastern Railway in line with other completely electrified railways such as East Coast Railway, North Central Railway, West Central Railway, Eastern Railway, and South Eastern Railway.

Odissa: Indian Railways has accomplished a stupendous feat by achieving 100% electrification of the existing 2,822-kilometer route of the BG (B network in Odisha, which includes major railway stations such as Rourkela, Puri, Cuttack, and Bhubaneswar. 

Pune:  The Pune railway division has achieved a significant milestone by completing the electrification of 531 km within its jurisdiction, resulting in a reduction of 0.733 lakh tons of carbon footprints annually. This achievement is a major fillip for the division, and it would lead to an annual saving of ₹246 crore.

Now, with the recent 100 percent electrification of the Central Railway, there is a total of seven zones to achieve the milestone. These zones include East Coast Railway (ECoR), North Central Railway (NCR), North Eastern Railway (NER), Eastern Railway (ER), South Eastern Railway (SER), West Central Railway (WCR), and Central Railway (CR).

Advantages of Railway Electrification (RE)

Cost savings: Electrification of railway tracks can result in significant cost savings in the long run as electric trains are more energy-efficient than diesel trains. This reduces fuel costs and maintenance costs for the locomotives, which can result in cost savings for the railway operators.

Environmental benefits: Electric trains are much cleaner than diesel trains as they do not emit harmful pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. This leads to improved air quality and reduced environmental impact.

Increased speed: Electric trains are capable of achieving higher speeds than diesel trains, which can reduce travel time and increase the capacity of the railway network.

Improved reliability: Electric trains are more reliable and require less maintenance than diesel trains, which can reduce downtime and improve overall operational efficiency.

Noise reduction: Electric trains are much quieter than diesel trains, which can reduce noise pollution in urban areas and improve the quality of life for nearby residents.

Reduced dependence on imported fuel: Electrification of railway tracks can reduce a country’s dependence on imported diesel fuel, which can enhance energy security and reduce foreign exchange outflows.

Overall, there has been an important role of BG network electrification in attaining sustainable development and green mobility. In addition to electrification, Indian Railways have taken several other major steps, such as:

i Commissioning of Solar and Wind Power Plants: About 142 MW of solar plants and 103 MW of wind power plants have been commissioned on rooftops and vacant land (till 31.10.2022).

iii. Use of IGBT-based 3-Phase Propulsion System: Indian Railways has introduced the use of Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) based 3-phase propulsion system with regenerative braking in locomotives, EMU trains, MEMU trains, Kolkata Metro rakes, and Electric train sets.

iv. Conversion of EOG trains into HOG trains: To reduce noise, air pollution, and diesel consumption, Indian Railways has converted End on Generation (EOG) trains into Head on Generation (HOG) trains.

v. Provision of LED Lighting: Indian Railways has installed LED lighting in all railway installations, including stations, service buildings, residential quarters, and coaches, to reduce electricity consumption.

vi. Afforestation: Indian Railways has undertaken afforestation on its land to increase the carbon sink.

vii. Green Certifications: Green Certifications of various industrial units, railway stations, and other railway establishments have been done. Various railway stations have also received Environment Management System (EMS): ISO 14001 certification.

viii. Construction of Dedicated Freight Corridors: Indian Railways has undertaken the construction of Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) to improve freight transport and reduce carbon emissions.

ix. Installation of Waste-to-Energy Plants: Indian Railways has installed waste-to-energy plants to convert waste into energy and reduce its carbon footprint.

To sum up, the Indian Railways is committed to attaining sustainable development, and the green mobility and electrification project is a significant step towards it. The electrification project is a crucial component of India’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable development in the country. In addition to electrification, it has taken several other major steps to reduce its carbon footprint, such as promoting renewable energy sources, primarily solar, by utilizing large land parcels available along the railway track. Hence, it is all set to achieve its target and become the world’s largest Green Railways.


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