Railways replaces coach factory in Kolar with repair workshop

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Bengaluru: The proposed factory to manufacture rail coaches in Kolar, 66 km from Bengaluru, has been scrapped and a repair workshop will come up there.

The railways’ Pink Book, a budget document of detailed allocations of various projects and rail works, released on Wednesday, said Rs 495.3 crore was allocated for setting up a composite repair workshop in Kolar. This means Kolar will get only a railway workshop and not a rail coach factory as earlier proposed.

The factory was first proposed almost a decade ago by then Kolar MP KH Muniyappa, who was Union minister of state for railways. He managed to ensure the project was included in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 railway budgets. However, the project slipped into cold storage later.

In 2014, when Mallikarjun Kharge took over railway minister, he cleared the decks for setting up the factory. In fact, a foundation stone for the rail coach factory was also laid in Srinivasapur taluk of Kolar district that year, but the project continued to remain on paper.

The factory was proposed to manufacture about 1,000 passenger coaches per year. An agreement was signed between the railways and the state government to set up the factory at an estimated cost of Rs 1,460 crore on 1,123 acres of land. The project would have generated about 5,000 jobs. At present, rail coaches are manufactured in Chennai, Kapurthala and Rae Bareli.

Karnataka’s loss:

Activists Activists say a production unit generates more employment than a maintenance facility.

Karnataka Railway Vedike founder-member KN Krishnaprasad said, “This is the first-time the railways is admitting that a repair workshop and not a coach factory will come up in Kolar. The decision to drop a rail factory is a loss for Karnataka, particularly Srinivasapur which is a backward region. A coach factory would have generated huge employment opportunities for people in that area.”

“A workshop will do only secondary maintenance and repair of coaches and the number of jobs that would generate from that would be revealed only after railways releases a blueprint. From the railways’ point of view, three existing well-built coach factories may be enough for their requirements,” he added.

However, a senior SWR official said, “The existing three coach factories meet the requirements and no new proposals have been mooted. The life span of coaches is 20-25 years. The railway board has also decided not to set up new coach factories since it already has surplus capacity. The state government also delayed land acquisition for the project. In fact, the composite repair workshop in Kolar will be a huge facility and generate employment opportunities.”

“The rail coach factory set up at Bareli in 2012 was only utilised for refurbishing coaches. The first coach manufactured at this factory came out in 2014. Now, the factory has become a full-fledged manufacturing unit and is slated to produce coaches at 142% of its capacity. Similarly, the coach factory planned to be set up at Srinivasapur in Kolar will be utilised as a workshop for wagon maintenance to start with and in due course, it will be developed into a fully automated unit.”