THE TIMES OF INDIA
Work on GE’s $200m locomotive factory in Bihar on track: Piyush Goyal
TNN | Sep 29, 2017, 02:06 I
NEW DELHI: Railway minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that work on GE's $200 million diesel locomotive factory in Marhaura (Bihar) was "on track", rejecting reports that the government may terminate the contract with the US giant as the transporter seeks to speed up electrification of tracks.
"Our government does not make any sudden changes in policy... we take considered decisions. The Marhaura factory is being set up and I think it's on track," Goyal said at a press conference.
The minister's comments came a day after GE vice-chairman John Rice flew down to meet him and other stakeholders in a bid to ensure that the project was not derailed due to the railway ministry's change of heart. Efforts have also been initiated at the diplomatic level to ensure that the project is not impacted with the foreign ministry and the commerce and industry ministry also stepping in.
The railways has signed a $2.5 billion contract with GE for 20 years for the project. Termination of the contract will send a negative signal to investors, both at home and overseas, as the Narendra Modi government had cleared the Marhaura facility for diesel locomotives and a similar project for electric ones with ABB in Madhepura, also in Bihar. Both the projects were conceived by Lalu Prasad during his stint as railway minister but the UPA failed to clear them.
Questions were raised about the diesel loco project after Goyal argued that the railways would accelerate electrification of tracks. The minister said he had a discussion with top GE executives a few days ago to explore how the objectives of reducing pollution, bringing down overall cost and honouring agreements with the global conglomerate could be met. Goyal said he discussed how the locomotives could be useful for the railways, considering its emphasis on electrification.
"Can we explore opportunities that some of these (locos) could be exported? Can we look at opportunities where we can meet the objectives of reducing pollution, saving cost and make sure the contracts and agreements that are made by the railways continue to serve the people of India," he said.
Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha was more forthright. "There will be no danger to GE (project)," he said. He, however, was quick to add, "It's no rocket science to convert a diesel locomotive into an electric one. If it can happen in Varanasi, then it can happen anywhere."
He said the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) in Varanasi had been making both electric and diesel locos.
The Marhaura project, which was announced in 2006-07, was fast-tracked after the Modi government came to power and GE won the contract in 2015 to supply railways with 1,000 diesel locomotives.