Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Instagram YouTube Play Video WhatsApp

How Madhepura put Railways on the fast track.

By Pallabi Biswas | Aug 19, 2022

Factory In Little-Known Village In Bihar’s Madhepura Rolls Out 100 Electric Engines In 3 Yrs, Hits Another Ton In 1 Yr

The Madhepura electric locomotive factory, set up four years ago to change the economic landscape of northeastern Bihar, has rolled out nearly 200 electric locomotives of 12,000 horsepower (HP). These locomotives are engineered to run at a speed twice that of regular locomotives.

Thanks to this facility, the Indian Railways is in an elite club of locomotive manufacturing utilities; India is only the sixth country to produce such high-power electric locomotives.

The locomotives or rail engines manufactured at the Madhepura factory have been termed “WAG 12 [8.9 MW (megawatt)]” and are designed for hauling freight of around 6,000 tonnes at a speed of 120 km per hour.

Under the Make-in-India initiative, the locomotive factory sprawling 300 acres in Chakla Srirampur village on the western fringes of Madhepura town was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi in April 2018.

The Madhepura Electric Locomotive Private Limited (MELPL) is a joint venture of the railways and French giant Alstom SA and has been developed utilising an estimated outlay of Rs 2,000 crore. The factory rolled out the first high-power locomotive, WAG 12 bearing the number 60027, for its maiden trial from Pt Deendayal Upadhaya Junction to Barwadih via Dehri on Sone on May 18, 2020.

Railway Board CEO and chairman, V K Tripathi told TOI, “Madhepura facility builds the most powerful locomotives of 12,000 HP with latest technology and designed speed of 120 kmph, which enable railways to carry more traffic at faster speed. The facility, built under the public private partnership (PPP) model, brings together the strengths of both Indian Railways and Alstom. It’s one of the most successful PPP models which is a benchmark in industry and will become the basis for many future collaborations.”

He added the manufacturing facility was developed in the remote township of Madhepura and the large investment is helping in socio-economic upliftment of the entire area. “Also, the factory has been built to boost the Make-in-India initiative and it has established a local supply chain for 90% of components within India. It has created 10,000 direct and indirect jobs,” Tripathi said.

According to the East Central Railway chief public relations officer (CPRO), Birendra Kumar, the factory finished delivering 100 locomotives in fiscal 2021-22. He added that nearly 80% of the parts are made in different production units of the railways in the country. “The factory assembles all the parts and puts them in running condition after rigorous fitness tests,” he said.

The factory turned out 100 engines in April 2021, added another 98 in the 2021-22 fiscal and has notched up 230 so far. It is set to produce 800 high-power locomotives over 11 years .

When the 100th locomotive rolled out in April 2021, Alstom described the factory’s contribution in a statement. “The site has installed a production capacity of 120 locomotives per annum and Alstom has progressively achieved over 85% indigenisation. With these powerful e-Locos being manufactured within the country, India has become the sixth in the world to join the club of countries producing high horsepower locomotives indigenously,” it said.

“The dedication of high-power locomotives can be a shot in the arm for good service for the Indian Railways,” Narayan Prasad Sah, a resident who served as goods superintendent under East Central Railways (ECR), said.

Local people, however, rued the lack of employment opportunities. Officials said that the hiring of staff and engineers was done by the human resource department of MELPL through a global recruitment process. Sources claimed that around 300 people work in the factory.

Many of the employees have been allocated staff quarters on the premises. Others have taken up rented accommodation in Madhepura town. The employees in uniform and headgear are ferried 4km from the town in buses to the factory in different shifts. “The employees seldom interact with the local people,” said local mukhiya Anil Anal. He, however, hailed the factory authorities for launching social activities in the villages around it, including the adoption of around 12 anganwadi centres for renovation.

“The factory runs teaching sessions at the anganwadi centres and provides health services and free medicines to the needy in the home village,” he said.

The MELPL claims it has taken steps to employ the local population. In September 2018, MELPL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government-owned Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Madhepura to adopt the facility.

According to a press statement issued on behalf of MELPL, the MoU specified government assistance towards the training of at least 25% of women candidates for the role of electricians and fitters to make them employable at the locomotive factory. It said at the end of the training period, MELPL would absorb 300 students (30 students each year for 10 years) from the ITI for its apprenticeship programme at the facility. Out of 300 students, the MELPL will absorb 84 trained apprentices for employment.

Shakti Kumar, principal at the ITI in Madhepura district, said 19 students — 13 boys and 6 girls — have been selected for an apprenticeship after the MoU was signed in 2017. “Selection was disrupted because of Covid-19,” he said.

Besides, three private ITIs are running in Madhepura. Twelve students have been selected from the private ITIs for apprenticeship in the factory. 

Alstom’s project with the Indian Railways also includes setting up two maintenance depots in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Nagpur in Maharashtra.

“These depots are equipped with the latest technologies and features to anticipate breakdowns, thereby enabling proactive maintenance of India’s most advanced freight locomotives at significantly lower costs. The depot in Saharanpur is currently operational and houses a training centre equipped with a loco simulator and smart classrooms for the skill development of railway employees and loco pilots. To date, more than 500 loco pilots of the railways have been trained. Going forward, 500 more will be trained annually. The Nagpur depot will be functional next year,” Alstom said in April last year

Get updates on latest Stories of a Changing India

© 2024 The Times of a Better India. Powered by Leo Digital.