First High Power Electric Loco Fails Test Run

There appears to have been a problem in the suspension system of the first locomotive, whose components were imported from France and assembled at Madhepura.

India’s first high-powered electric locomotive flagged off with much fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018 has failed its trial test.

Rolled out from Madhepura locomotive factory, a joint venture between French rolling stock major Alstom and Indian Railways, the first prototype of 12,000 horsepower (HP) electric locomotive has failed the performance test during the oscillation trial, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

“Performance test is essential for certifying the speed-related run of a new rail engine,” a senior Railway Ministry official told, and added that the “test trial was a failure as it witnessed defects in [the] suspension system.”

The railways wrote to Alstom in August, asking it to rectify the defects within 270 days, failing which the manufacturer would have to pay penalty as per the terms and conditions of the agreement.

Touted as a high-value FDI project in rail sector, the Rs 25 crore locomotive, considered to be the state-of-the-art, was launched for trial run by Modi with much fanfare six months ago.

As per the contract, the first five locos would be imported from France. All components would come from Alstom in France to be assembled at Madhepura. The first loco’s components were also imported and assembled in Madehpura before rolling off for a trial run.

“We have written as per the provisions in the agreement signed between Alstom and railways and are expecting the suspension problems will be rectified within the stipulated period. Otherwise the manufacturer will have to pay penalty,” said the official.

Currently the locomotive is stationed at Shaharanpur loco shed and Alstom engineers coming from France are expected to attend to the problems.

“Oscillation tests and trials are part of the series of statutory tests being carried out before the first loco enters revenue service. We will continue to conduct regular tests on several parameters, to make the electric locomotives world-class, ensuring full safety and reliability in line with international practices and standards,” Alstom said in a statement in response to the query over the trial failure.

Till now, the most powerful electric engine in Indian Railways was of the 6,000 HP category.

After the 12,000 HP loco becomes operational, India is expected to join an elite list of countries, including Russia, China, Germany and Sweden, that have 12,000 HP and above capacity electric locomotives.

Equipped with insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT)-based propulsion technology, the heavy-haulage locos, with a maximum speed of 110 km per hour, will help decongest saturated routes by improving the speed and carrying capacity of freight trains.

The Rs 20,000 crore electric locomotive project is expected to roll out a total of 800 high HP locos over a period of 11 years.

The total project cost includes Rs 1,300 crore for setting up the factory at Madhepura and two loco maintenance depots at Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Nagpur (Maharashtra), beside building 800 locos.

According to the contract agreement, the first five engines will be imported while the remaining 795 will be manufactured in the country under the Make in India programme. About 35 locos will be manufactured at the Madhepura facility in the next fiscal (2019-20) and 60 in 2020-21.

After that, the factory will every year produce 100 locos till the target of 800 is reached over 11 years. These heavy-haulage locos would be pressed into service on the dedicated freight corridors to transport coal and iron ore.

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