According to reports, the railway move to tap solar energy to meet power needs may come as a boon to small suburban railway stations where poor lighting poses a security risk to commuters, especially women.
The railway ministry has decided to set up solar power plants of 8.8 mega watt (MW) capacity at railway stations, railway office buildings and level crossing gates throughout the country under railway funding. These include 10 KWp solar panels each at 200 stations under various zonal railways. The project will be carried out under PPP model, a policy for which will be drawn up in a month and installation will begin by the end of the year.
The ministry has issued a circular to zones telling them to install solar panels at stations and level crossings on PPP mode. Frequent commuters feel that Southern Railway should give priority to stations where there is a need for better lighting. Majority of the suburban railway stations on the Chennai-Tiruvallur and Chennai-Gummidipoondi routes do not have sufficient lighting.
Lighting is poor at stations beyond Avadi on Chennai-Tiruvallur route and after Ennore on Chennai-Gummidipoondi route. After getting complaints, railways have started to improve lighting at major stations like Avadi and Perambur. CFL lamps were also installed at these stations recently. “Solar power will also ensure that railways will be able to offer uninterrupted power suppy to platforms, waiting rooms, ticket counters, entries and exits,” said a railway official.
“Railways will be able to increase use of power without depending on the grid to provide lighting at stations. Priority should be given to sensitive stations in terms of commuter security on the suburban network to install solar panels,” said S Mohanram, former member, railway users’ consultative committee.
Southern Railway officials would start identifying the stations after getting the circular from the ministry. It is expected that grade A stations on the suburban routes like Mambalam, Tambaram and Perambur may get solar panels. “The circular will have details about modalities for the project. Stations will be identified and tenders floated only after the communication reaches us,” said a senior official of Southern Railway.
Mohanram said, “Railways should take care to prevent delays while giving contracts for PPP. The tenders should be priced to attract contractors and the terms and conditions should be laid out in such a way that the project would benefit passengers and not the company which takes up the contract.”