Railways shuts enterprise that invited bids for hydrogen fuel trains; no effect on projects

“Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels' with effect from September 7, 2021,” an order issued on Tuesday stated.

RAILWAY MINISTRY under Ashwani Vaishnaw has decided to shut down the Indian Railways Organization of Alternate Fuel (IROAF), a separate enterprise working in the field of green fuels for transport that had recently invited bids for hydrogen fuel cell-based technology for trains.

“Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels’ with effect from September 7, 2021,” an order issued on Tuesday stated.

A ministry spokesman said that ongoing projects or contracts of IROAF will not be affected in any way. “Only administrative change. Projects will be executed as usual,” the spokesman said.

The order also stated that the work of IROAF will be transferred to Northern Railways and Railway Board.

Traditionally populated and driven by mechanical engineers of Railways to work on alternative to diesel, IROAF to its credit had experimented with bio-diesel, CNG-fuelled engines etc in the past. It had also been working on solar-powered trains in tandem with the NDA government’s plans to reduce carbon emission through adoption of renewable energy by 2022.

“Except for minor projects and showcase installations, Indian Railways have not aligned itself with the targets of the 2022. There is very little that Railways is doing on its own to contribute to the agenda set by the Government of India,” the IROAF website says. “The steps taken so far by IR are not commensurate with the quantity of energy that it consumes and the influence that it can exert due to it being the single largest buyer of petroleum and electricity.”

The abrupt shutting down of the organisation, based out of Laxmi Nagar in East Delhi, has rankled certain sections of the Railway bureaucracy with concerns being raised on whether future of other organisations such as the Central Organisation for Modernisation of Workshops, established in 1979 for specialised procurement, is also uncertain.

The solar power rolling stock or the Alternate Fuel Electrical Directorate of IROAF will be transferred to the Railway Board. Its existing tenders will be handled by Northern Railway, the order said.

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