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Sustainable & Green Mobility: Green Initiatives of Metro & Railways in India


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India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people split and spread across a large geographical area. With urbanisation and the development of cities, mobility has become even more important and crucial. The transport industry shall continue to be one of the vital enablers of development and, therefore, needs to keep growing in order for the country to accomplish its developmental goals. Transport accounts for more than half of all petroleum consumption in India and more than a quarter of total energy requirements. It accounts for approximately thirteen per cent of total GHG emissions. Given the relative efficiency of rail-based transport, increasing the share of rail for both passenger movement (regional, suburban, and urban) and freight movement is of greater importance for increasing the energy efficiency of the transport sector, thereby lowering and mitigating the country’s GHG emissions.

Rail-based transportation is the most environmentally friendly mode of mass transportation due to the inherent benefits it delivers in terms of energy efficiency and resource optimisation. When compared to road transport, railways are approximately 12 times more efficient in freight traffic and 3 times more efficient in passenger transportation. Mobility shall be an important component as the Indian economy transforms, with economic growth and sustainable development as twin goals. It has been projected that for the Indian economy to develop sustainably, the intermodal share and proportion of freight transportation by rail should increase from the current thirty-six per cent to an estimated forty-five per cent by 2030. Hence, Indian Railways is planning a significant expansion and growth to accomplish such an increase in inter-modal share by expanding its network and rolling stock fleet, as well as increasing productivity.

An integrated approach, with resource efficiency at its core, would thus be necessary for the railways and metro systems in the country to be a low-carbon mass transportation system working for a green environment. As the nation’s lifeline, the national transporter established the Environment Directorate in the Railway Board in January 2015 to oversee all environmental management programmes across the Indian Railways. Since then, the railways and metro systems have taken steps to streamline their environmental management efforts, with notable initiatives including Energy Efficiency, Renewable and Alternate Energy, Water Conservation, Afforestation, Waste Management, and Green Certifications.

Developments in Energy Efficiency in Rail Transportation 

  • Energy Efficiency in Electric Traction: Energy-efficient initiatives are being implemented. The use of three-phase locomotive technology has been projected to save 500 tonnes of CO2 per year. These locomotives are outfitted with regenerative braking, which allows the engines to regenerate electricity when brakes being applied and feed it back into the grid. Regenerative braking has been introduced in Conventional Electric Locomotive WAG7 as well, and the first such locomotive was manufactured by BHEL Jhansi in February 2019.

The first ‘Made in India’, 12000 HP WAG12 electric locomotive manufactured by Madhepura Electric Locomotive Pvt. Ltd. (MELPL), is yet another step. This is a cutting-edge IGBT-based, three-phase drive, 12000 horsepower electric locomotive with regenerative braking that saves significant energy during operation. These high-horsepower locomotives will help to decongest the overcrowded lines by increasing goods trains’ average speed and loading capacity.

  • ESMON Systems: Energy cum Speed Monitoring (ESMON) systems have been installed across all electric locomotives to monitor the performance of Loco Pilots in terms of energy conservation. Loco Pilots are encouraged to use regenerative brakes on three-phase electric locomotives to lower traction energy bills. The Crew Management System monitors energy use and regeneration in each trip by every single crew.

Improvement in Fuel efficiency in Diesel Traction

(i) Auxiliary Power Units (APU) have been installed in almost a thousand diesel locomotives to save fuel while idling. When the loco idles for more than 10 minutes, the APU system shuts down the main engine and starts a small 25 HP engine to charge the batteries and air brakes pipes. The APU uses only 5 litres of diesel per hour, compared to the main engine’s 18 litres. Other than fuel savings, there would be a reduction in lubricating oil use and engine wear and tear. It also reduces CO emissions and other pollutants such as HC, NOx, and CO.

(ii) A computerised fuel management system (FMS) has been built, and RCDs have begun entering all HSD issuance and receipt data into the FMS system on a daily basis. The technology is being improved to allow for real-time data entry. This improves data processing, which aids in managing and regulating diesel consumption for traction purposes.

(iii) Diesel Consumption Reduction – In comparison to the previous fiscal year, the Railways cut its diesel use by more than half in 2020-21. The Railway’s diesel consumption was 26,41,142 kilolitres in 2018-19, which was reduced by nearly eleven per cent in 2019-20 and further lowered by 50.29 per cent to 11,75,901 kilolitres in 2020-21. 

(iv) Reduced Carbon Emission: IR has taken on the responsibility of further decreasing diesel locomotive emissions and standardising them in accordance with international & worldwide emission practices and procedures. Diesel locomotives for Indian Railways are now being constructed exclusively at the Diesel Locomotive Factory/Marhowra, which meets UIC-624-I Emission Standards.

(v) Dual-mode Locomotive – There are a number of stations/yards/sidings where traction changes occur owing to a mix of diesel and electric tractions. It is significantly easier to develop an electro-diesel locomotive (Dual mode) with modern electronics that can run at prescribed speeds on both electrified and non-electrified territories. In case of a major crash, accident or natural calamity, such as a cyclone, or at locations where the OHE gets disrupted, a dual-mode loco will provide excellent operational flexibility by operating on diesel until normalcy is restored. RDSO has designed and created a dual-mode loco prototype which was readied in March 2020 at DLW, Varanasi. The prototype shall now be put through necessary operational and safety tests and trials.

Improving Energy Efficiency with Rolling Stock:

(i) In 2018-19, BFNSM waggons were introduced for Steel Coils, increasing rake output to 4100 tonnes per rake, thirty-five per cent greater than standard BFNS and BRN waggon rakes. BFNV waggon has been designed to allow forklift loading of steel coils from the side.

(ii) A dwarf container has been developed that can travel with double stack loading even in electrified areas and sections, allowing for increased throughput.

(iii) In August of 2018, the commercial operation of multimodal Road-Railers began.

(iv) These solutions shall increase throughput and/or shift some road traffic to rail, resulting in lower GHG emissions for the same freight traffic.

  • Coaches: Enhanced design Coaches made of stainless steel have a greater carrying capacity. As the share of such coaches increases, the PKM to GTKM ratio gets better, resulting in lower GHG emissions for carrying the same passenger volume.
  • Train Sets: Train-18 (later renamed Vande Bharat), India’s first semi-high speed train set produced under the ‘Make in India’ initiative by ICF in 2018-19, is an energy-efficient train. It has three-phase IGBT-based underslung propulsion equipment, an innovative and advanced regenerative braking system, with the elimination of the need of power cars. These features can save as much as thirty per cent of energy. In addition, the train’s aerodynamic design assists to reduce air drag and, consequently, energy consumption.
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  • EMU/MEMU: The use of an energy-efficient three-phase IGBT-based propulsion system with regenerative braking was first introduced and has since been maintained.

Head on Generation System

End-on-Generation (EOG) LHB trains require power cars equipped with Diesel Alternator (DA) units to feed air conditioning, train lighting, and other electrical requirements in the coaches. Each such train has two power cars, each with two DA sets. This technology has the problem of causing air and noise pollution. Power is drawn through converters provided in locomotives in the HOG system. The electrical power drawn by the locomotive’s pantograph is appropriately converted and supplied for air conditioning, train lights, and other electrical loads in the train. 342 trains have already been converted to HOG till date. This has helped in saving nearly Rs 800 crore. The way ACs work and power is supplied in train compartments is going through new developments. New innovations and technical transitions are expected to save approximately 1400 crore rupees in foreign exchange every year.

Energy Conservation Initiatives

Given the vast magnitude of its operations, it is not unexpected that the Indian Railways has a growing demand for power usage. Indian Railways consumes roughly 20 billion kWh of electricity each year, accounting for approximately two per cent of overall power consumption in the country. With rail traffic expected to increase in the next years, it is anticipated that the Indian Railways’ demand for energy will rise during the next decade.

Indian Railways has undertaken a number of measures to conserve energy, procure power under Open Access, and harness Renewable Energy to reduce its energy consumption and rationalise its energy procurement process. Railways also conduct regular energy audits at various spots of power consumption. The use of 5-Star electrical equipment is being encouraged and promoted.

  • Complete LED replacement at all railway stations (over 8,000) and all railway facilities and structures (over 20,000). LED lighting has been provided on a one-time basis in all residential quarters (about 5 lakh quarters). The hundred per cent LED fitting across all railway infrastructure and facilities is expected to save around ten per cent of total energy consumed on non-traction, resulting in savings of approximately 240 million units of power, accounting to a saving of Rs 180 crore per year. 
  • CFL/FL lights in TL/AC and self-propelled (EMU/MEMU) coaches have been replaced with energy-efficient LED lights by Zonal Railways. LED light fixtures are being provided in all newly constructed coaches from production units. On an average, each such coach helps in saving approximately Rs. 25000/- every year.

Harnessing Renewable Energy

Since Indian Railways consumes a substantial amount of energy, identifying cost-effective options for achieving and realising an energy system with the least environmental impact is essential. Indian Railways has taken a number of initiatives to implement clean and efficient energy. The Indian Railways’ Vision 2020 document specifies that the primary objective of railways is to obtain and utilise at least ten per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources.

Some of the key steps taken in this regard are as under :

  • Harnessing Solar Energy to be used in various ways by IR
  • Solar Plants along the Railway Track for traction purposes
  • Harnessing the wind energy
  • Hundred per cent green-powered station
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Alternate Fuel and Clean Energy initiatives – IROAF

With a growing global population and increased energy consumption, the expanding usage of coal and oil poses a threat to the continued existence of humanity. These fuels are the major emitters of GHGs and pollutants such as NO2, SO2, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM). The Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuel (IROAF) has been established to look into the possibility of expanding new sources of environmentally friendly fuels and energy in Indian Railways. IROAF has made the following initiatives in this direction:

  • Blending of Bio-diesel with HSD – Bio-based fuels made from renewable biomass and other natural resources are environmentally friendly because the CO2 emitted by burning these fuels is absorbed and captured again by trees and plants, neutralising the negative environmental impact. Pollutants produced by the combustion of traditional fossil fuels because of Sulphur and other toxic elements included in fossil fuels are absent in bio-fuel, resulting in significantly lower emissions. H.S.D. substitution with bio-diesel leads in a 44% reduction in hydrocarbons (HCs), an 89.3% reduction in carbon mono oxide (CO), and no sulphur content in exhaust. On June 5, 2015, Indian Railways began blending 5% biodiesel with HSD. Bio-Diesel blends of as much as five per cent have begun at nearly a hundred Indian Railways RCDs across the country.
  • CNG/LNG-based Dual Fuel Diesel Engines for DEMU Trains – Indian Railways is the only railway in the world that uses CNG-powered locomotives for passenger transportation. IROAF is pioneering the use of CNG-based dual fuel fumigation technology on 1400 hp CNG DEMUs DPCs to achieve up to 20% diesel substitution. At the Shakurbasti and Vijayawada Diesel Sheds, a number of DEMU diesel power cars have been converted into CNG-based dual-fuel engines.

IROAF is now progressing to the next phase of forty per cent HSD substitution with CNG/ LNG. Contracts have been issued for the conversion of ten dual-fuel DPCs with a forty per cent substitution of CNG and ten dual-fuel DPCs with a forty per cent substitution of LNG.

Various Solar Energy based solutions for Rolling Stock of IR

Indian Railways has taken a number of initiatives to provide solar energy-based solutions for rolling stock and passenger services, including the following: 

(a) Provisions of Solar Panels on trains

(b) Solar energy-based solution for guards of freight trains

(c) Solar panels on rail workshops and stations

 The other initiatives include – 

(i) Use of Natural Gas at Workshops / Production Units / Railway Premises

(ii) Use Fuel Cell Technology

Indian Railways is also working on energy conservation projects, which include as follows:

  1. Water Recycling Plants are provided in major consumption centre locations (stations/sheds, etc.) where there is a high demand for water and the provision of the same is economically viable.
  2. Water Bodies – The Ministry of Railways has decided to access and review the water bodies existing on railway land, including those that are currently non-functional, and take actions to make sure that all existing water bodies are safeguarded and nurtured and that all non-functional water bodies are restored as soon as possible.
  3. Water Audit – To minimise the waste of water, Zonal Railways have been instructed to conduct water audits at significant water consumption sites by a third party for both quality and quantity and to begin work on water recycling plants based on the water audit report. 
  4. Rain Water Harvesting – To improve water conservation, Indian Railways has installed Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems at various locations in accordance with existing policy. Railways received instructions in 2001 to employ rooftop rainwater collection to recharge groundwater, particularly in areas experiencing seasonal water shortages, and to seek support from Regional offices of the Ministry of Water Resources.

In 2013, it was decided that the RWH scheme would be an essential subset of all project estimates for built assets such as service buildings, hospitals, station buildings (including remodelling), railway quarters, workshops/sheds, yard modelling, as well as doubling, new line and gauge conversion, and sidings. Roof Top Rain Water Harvesting installation is being monitored across all railway zones. 

  1. Deployment of Quick Watering Systems – Quick Watering Systems have been introduced across Indian Railways for watering coaches at stations. The Quick Watering System conserves water by reducing waste. 
  2. Afforestation – Railway departmental afforestation on vacant railway land in between sections is carried out in order to protect Railway land from illegal and unauthorised occupation.

Green Built up Spaces

IR has taken the lead in pursuing Green Rating Certification for a number of Railway establishments, including industrial operations. Such certification primarily assesses factors that have a direct influence on the environment, such as energy-saving measures, the use of renewable energy, the impact on GHG emissions, water conservation, solid and liquid waste management, green cover, and so on.

(a) Green Buildings- Green Buildings can be stated to be attempts to lessen the negative environmental impact of buildings and structures during construction and use. The aim and objective of green buildings are to reduce demand for non-renewable resources, improve and enhance resource utilisation efficiency, and maximise the reuse, recycling, and utilisation of renewable resources.

(b) Green Railway Stations – The Confederation of Indian Industry (IGBC-CII) has set up Green Railway Stations Rating system to analyse, access, and facilitate the redevelopment, transformation and conversion of existing railway stations into environmentally friendly ones.

Few Other Key Initiatives

In order to fulfil its goal to become a green transportation system, Indian Railways has undertaken the following efforts as additional measures to establish itself as an eco-friendly and non-hazardous transportation system:

  1. Environment-Friendly Bio-Toilets for Passenger Coaches
  2. The use of Bio Vacuum Toilets
  3. Focus and emphasis on Solid Waste Management
  4. Environment Management Shield
  5. Drinkable water at an affordable price
  6. EMS (Environment Management System) and IMS (Integrated Management System) Certification
  7. Efforts to reduce noise in power cars
  8. Implementation of e-office operations
  9. TPaaS (Telepresence-as-a-Service) provisions
  10. Centralised Traffic Control with Electrical/Electronic Interlocking

Green Initiatives in Metro Railways

Indian Railways and Metro Rail Corporations are working tirelessly to transform the country’s railways, metros, RRTS and MRTS transportation systems into ‘green’ transportation systems that reduce carbon footprints through efficient power consumption, rainwater harvesting and other processes. It is mandated to provide passengers with an entirely different experience each time they ride and use the transportation system. The operation of the transport system is intended to contribute to and develop an environmentally friendly environment. Some of the benefits of the country’s ‘green’ Metro project are highlighted below:

  • Use of rainwater harvesting in the premises to charge groundwater.
  • Efforts to reduce volatile organic compounds from the environment using various techniques such as regenerative braking systems, the planting of trees in and around stations and depots, residential complexes, solar roofs, and so on, thereby significantly reducing carbon footprints.
  • The use of innovative rolling stock helps to reduce CO2 emissions, making metros a more viable public transport choice and option.
  • Use of environmentally friendly chemicals and materials for housekeeping and artwork at metro stations to save energy consumption. The use of LED lights and energy-efficient electric equipment to cut energy consumption is one of the various techniques being used and undertaken by the railways and metro systems in the country towards their green initiatives and projects.
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Energy consumption in India has risen by nearly seven hundred per cent in the last 40 years, and it is expected to increase by threefold further by 2030. This necessitates action by the urban transport sector, which consumes the most energy, to work towards energy savings and environmental sustainability. Metro corporations in India already have a few methods in place, such as minimising their carbon footprint by installing solar power systems across their networks, creating roofs of highly reflecting material, and insulating the walls and roofs of stations. Almost all metro systems being built in the country intend to generate one-sixth of their power from solar energy within the next five years, supporting renewable energy.

Global energy demand is constantly increasing, with consumption expected to double and even triple in the coming years. With major countries such as China, India, and the United States at the vanguard of this use, it has become important to act. Fortunately, India has taken the first step towards reducing its ecological footprint and burden on the environment by attempting to make the metro systems green and sustainable. Conforming to the initiatives, the Delhi Metro, the nation’s capital metro system, has been made completely green.

The Delhi Metro has also been designated as the ‘World’s First Green Metro’ as a result of the Delhi Metro Rail Service’s (DMRC) ongoing efforts to construct an eco-friendly and energy-efficient metro system. It has achieved this coveted status by adhering to the Indian Green Building Council’s (IGBC) green building standards. In addition, the Delhi Metro was the first in the world to acquire carbon credits from the United Nations in 2008 for its efforts and contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The DMRC also became the first metro to be included in the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism in 2015. Further, the DMRC has received various green certifications for its Phase III and Phase IV stations, substations, and depots. Similar efforts and initiatives are being taken by other metro systems being developed in the country. The metro systems being constructed in other cities are also being developed in an environmentally friendly manner, advocating and prioritising environmentally friendly initiatives. The Indian Railways is already working towards its goal of becoming more sustainable and environment-friendly by 2030.

As a result, it goes without saying that the overarching goal of adopting green initiatives in a metro is to satisfy the dual goals of sustainable development and low emissions while mitigating climate change concerns. With characteristics such as conservation practices, power efficiency, renewable energy utilisation, rainwater harvesting, material sustainability and elevated commuting facilities, these green metro projects provide consumers with a one-of-a-kind experience. Green metro is also a ‘smart’ answer for our future smart cities.

The major goal of green projects is to pave the way for long-term sustainability. The green impact stipulated through these commute-based projects is to reduce the effects of natural disasters and human-made mistakes in nature. These also provide access to green spaces while also addressing the environmental effects of urban areas. Breakthrough inventions have the potential to change the way we commute by providing more efficient, environmentally friendly, and convenient forms of transportation. Green metro initiatives strive to nest their presence inside nature without interfering with it; they have multiple good effects.

Latest Update

Vande Bharat has transformed the train travel experience for the common middle-class commuter. Vande Bharat trains, a fine instance of ‘Make in India,’ have come a long way from their debut in 2019. Vande Bharat has proven to be an initial uplift towards a faster and enhanced travel experience, with a minimum speed of 160 kmph and facilities superior to Shatabdi trains. The years ahead are expected to be important for Indian Railways, with Vande Metro trains leading the way. Following the success of the high-speed Vande Bharat Express trains, the launch of Vande Metro trains in 2023 is expected to augment commuters’ journey and travel time with the best of services. 

India’s First Hydrogen-Powered Vande Metro Trains

The Indian Railways has begun manufacturing hydrogen-fuel cell-powered eco-friendly Vande Metro trains to replace the ageing trains developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently stated that these trains will be a significant step forward because the focus will not be on the end user. Vande Metro trains fuelled by hydrogen will serve the middle and lower classes. It is safe to state that these trains will have a profound impact on every Indian’s daily life.

This is one of the most significant ecological and green initiatives undertaken by the Indian Railways, as hydrogen trains require less fuel and produce low noise, resulting in nearly no pollution. According to reports, these trains will only generate steam and evaporated water. This will be India’s first and the world’s second hydrogen train, with Germany having debuted the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains. Although the specific launch date is yet to be announced, the Railway Minister has stated that the design should be available between May and June 2023.

Sustainable & Green Mobility: Green Initiatives of Metro & Railways in India 6

Vande Bharat 3.0: Sleeper-Class Vande Bharat Express

The Indian Railways is developing the Vande Bharat-3 design, which will include sleeper class and make longer-distance travel easier. According to official information released by the Ministry of Railways, a tender for the production of 200 new rakes of these new-generation Vande Bharat trains has been issued. All 200 Vande Bharat rakes will be developed solely for the sleeper class. According to reports, these trains will most likely have an aluminium body and will be 2-3 tonnes lighter than previous Vande Bharat variants. The sleeper class coaches would include Wi-Fi and LED panels that will display passenger information. The trains will also include automatic fire sensors and GPS systems to make travel easier, safer, and more enjoyable.

Amrit Bharat Station Scheme: Revamping the railway stations

The Indian Railways has inaugurated the Amrit Bharat Station scheme, with the long-term goal of upgrading the infrastructure of more than 1,000 stations on a continuous basis. According to the official announcement, the project would ensure that all station categories have high-level platforms (760-840 millimetres). In fact, the Master Plans created under this concept will fundamentally transform the appearance of stations. This would entail widening roads, demolishing unsightly constructions, correctly designed signage, dedicated pedestrian walkways, well-planned parking areas and improved lighting. Considering the limited space at railway stations, efforts will be made to combine different grades/types of waiting areas and provide good cafeteria/retail facilities as much as feasible. In waiting rooms, suitable low-level partitions can be constructed.


  1. Metro stations all over India are implementing Hydroflow anti-fouling technology across water systems in HVAC cooling tower side.

    This helps in prevent fouling, reducing chemical dosing to minimum, maintaining approach steady, reduction in energy usage spike in chillers, reduction in blowdown, and reduction in bacterial count in cooling towers.

    Many metros have installed Hydroflow anti-fouling technology including Ahmedabad Metro, Kolkata Metro, Pune Metro, Lucknow Metro, Delhi-Meerut RRTS, etc.


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