What is Railway Electrification?
Railway Electrification is defined as installing a system to transfer electrical power to running electric traction vehicle. It is different to electrification of Railway station or residential colony or utility supply for household or industrial purpose. However, the usage of electricity is same that is to undergo conversion from one form to another delivering purposeful work for the benefit of civilization. The most important advantage of electricity is bulk generation and transfer it to any consuming point. It is economical to consume even 100 units of electricity at user point from a power generation unit locating 100 Km away through a distributing network instead generation through a DG set at the point of consumption. On similar lines, it is economical to transfer electrical power for Railway Traction instead using DG set inside the locomotive for the same purpose. In case of Diesel Locomotive, diesel energy is converted into Electric Energy and fed to traction motor. Electric Traction motor provides innumerable options for control to meet high speed or heavy haul which cannot be possible if diesel energy is converted into mechanical energy directly.
Today use of electric power for road vehicle is the subject of research and development so that electric charged batteries provide power to work traction motor of road vehicle. If this can work out to be economical, sustainable, and mode of transport for future, then why not electric traction on Railways.
But in Indian Railways, economics of electric vs diesel is always a subject of debate.Why?
There are two departments in Indian Railways namely Electrical and Mechanical. Electrical Department is responsible for all maters relating to electrical locomotive where mechanical department is responsible for Diesel Locomotive. Proliferation of electrical locomotive is at the cost of diesel locomotive and in turn disadvantageous to Mechanical Department. Introduction of Diesel Locomotive over Indian Railways was in 60′s with the support of GM locos of USA. Diesel Traction is preferred technology in US mainly due to abundance of oil. All those countries which import oil even for road transport has gone for electric traction like European, Japan etc.
This is all very obvious, but need for electrification of any section is still required to be justified for a return of 14%. No one wants to work out where will Indian Railways would be, had electrified network 22200 RKM (as on 31.3.2012) not have been created?
Financial evaluation of the project done based on-line haul cost or fuel prices. The trend of LHC and fuel prices over the last years is discussed in later chapters.
More content on this topic
Main Chapter: Railway Electrification
Chapter 1: Benefits of Electrification
Chapter 2: Economics of Electric Vs Diesel Traction – Fuel and Line Haul Cost
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