The Indian Railways will sign an assured offtake agreement for its long-pending wagon manufacturing and rehabilitation plant in Kulti, West Bengal, on 24 November, an official said, requesting anonymity.
The work on the factory began in 2011 after the then railways minister and the present chief minister of West Bengal, Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, inaugurated the project in October 2010.
The factory will be a joint venture between Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and RITES Ltd, and will be called SAIL-RITES Bengal Wagon Industries Pvt. Ltd. “The railways has fostered a joint venture between two public sector undertakings and we (railways) will have an indirect participation,” the official said.
An assured offtake agreement is signed between a producer and a buyer formalizing the intention of the buyer to buy a certain amount of the producer’s output. The official said the factory is ready and work can start within a few weeks of signing the agreement.
The national transporter seems to be in a hurry to clear projects which have been envisaged long ago but have not seen the light of day.
On 9 November, the railways awarded contracts to US-based General Electric Co. and France-based Alstom to set up diesel and electric locomotive factories, respectively, in Bihar with a combined order book of Rs.40,000 crore.
These projects were announced in 2007 when Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) veteran Lalu Prasad was railways minister. “The agreement between these two companies and railways will be signed on 30 November. We are working on the modalities,” said the railways official.
The official also said the order book of the Kulti plant isRs.4,000 crore over the next 10 years. According to initial projections, the factory is expected to manufacture 1,200 wagons and rehabilitate 300 wagons per year. Incidentally, this will be the fourth big announcement related to railways for east India.
Apart from the locomotive plant in Bihar and a wagon factory in West Bengal, the cabinet on Wednesday committed Rs.2,774 crore for a rail-cum-road bridge over the Ganga in Munger, Bihar, which has seen no progress in 17 years, and set a deadline of mid-2016 to open the line. Also, the cabinet approved doubling of three rail tracks and addition of two more to the east coast rail zone in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh at a combined cost of around Rs.8,000 crore.
Power minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday said at a press meet that the announcement after the Bihar polls by the central government showed its commitment to the people of the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance lost the Bihar polls to the grand alliance of RJD Janata Dal (United) and Congress led by Nitish Kumar on 8 November.
On 19 November, the railways also announced the names of short-listed bidders for supply of 17 train sets comprising 316 cars to be produced at the rail coach factory in Kanchrapara, West Bengal, at Rs.860 crore through a joint venture. The cabinet had approved the project in February 2010 and was conceptualized when Banerjee was rail minister. Interestingly, Bengal goes to poll in May 2016.