Indian Railways Romance with Environment

    09-Jun-2021
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V Kalyana Rama, CMD/CONCOR
My earliest remembrance of Railways was of my journey with my family on summer trips by train. The attraction as an young kid was to sit at the window-seat and look outside the trees and buildings running backwards.  It is always a pleasant experience but for the coal dustfalling in the eye from the smoke of the Steam Engine.  Those were the days when most of the trains used to be hauled by Steam Engines producing their share of air pollutants by burning coal. Lot of water used to be consumed to produce steam to haul trains. The tracks were laid on wooden sleepers.  Signal poles were made of wood and for various other buildings, structures lot of wood used to be consumed. Thus, Railway operations used to consume lot of natural resources. From that point, Railways embarked on a journey to protect the environment, changing all the aspects and modernizing things in a rapid pace in the last 50 years.  So let us walk through the Railways Romance with Environment and its protection.
Railways replaced wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers which not only increased the strength and the load bearing capacity of the tracks but also saved lot of forest/wood consumption. All the wooden structures were replaced with iron structures. Today Indian Railways is not using even a single wooden sleeper in its huge network.
The Steam Engine gave way to Diesel Engine and the Steam Locomotives have become antique pieces and were put to exhibition and for occasional heritage runs. Now Diesel Engine has also given way to Electrical Traction. As on date, 70% of the broad-gauge network of Indian Railways is with OHE (Overhead Electrification) and Railways are working on emphasizing 100% electrification of the broad-gauge network by December 2023, thereby not only reducing the pollution from burning fossil fuels but also saving lot of money in foreign exchange to the Nation.
The entire development of Railways is for the efficient bulk movement of freight which is six times more efficient than moving by road. Even though Railways was contributing to this aspect right from the beginning, the subsequent improvement helped in improving the efficiency in freight transportation.  One of the major milestones brought in Indian Railways is the introduction of rake movement and stopping piecemeal movement of wagons.  This helped in faster movement of goods and development of multimodal transportation wherein road and rail started working in better coordination. Furthering the cause of efficient transportation, Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) are under development. As things stand now, we will be soon having operations on two DFCs, i.e., the Western DFC and Eastern DFC.  These DFCs will not only move with more load capacity at faster speed but are also being developed as low carbon green transportation network with long-term low carbon roadmap, which will enable to adopt more energy efficient and carbon friendly generations, processes and practices.
(To be contd)