In the wake of the industrial development, in the Eastern region, with the setting up of steel plants necessitating large scale movement of Iron and Coal, substantial growth in freight traffic was observed and this could not be managed by steam traction. Electrification and diesalisation had to be introduced in early sixties to cope with the traffic. Indian Railways completed electrification of 216 RKM (route kilometer) on 25 kV AC traction during 2nd Five Year Plan. During the 3rd Plan, alongwith considerable indigenisation, electrification was extended over another 1678 RKM. The pace of electrification, however, slowed down until the oil crisis of seventies. The second oil crisis in particular brought to the fore the need for evolving a long term policy for electrification to reduce the dependence of Railways on petroleum based energy.
Under the directions of the PMO, in the context of shift from petroleum based energy in transport sector, the Secretaries Committee on energy headed by Cabinet Secretary decided in July 1980 that the Railways should speed up track electrification. Accordingly, the pace of electrification was considerably speeded up and Indian Railways achieved a record progress of 2812 RKM during the seventh Plan, 2708 RKM during Eighth Plan, 2484 RKM during Ninth Plan, 1810 RKM during Tenth Plan and 4556 RKM in Eleventh Plan. In the Twelth Plan (2012-17) Indian Railway has achieved 6244 RKM of electrification.
A lot of emphasis is given to Railway Electrification in recent years with a view to reduce the Nation’s dependence on imported petroleum based energy and to enhance the country’s energy security, with a vision of providing eco-friendly, faster and energy efficient mode of transportation. During the last five years, total 217 electrification projects consisting of 31468 RKM have been sanctioned by Government of India and keeping in mind the huge cost savings and considerable reduction in carbon foot print of the nation, Indian Railway has identified 100% electrification of all BG routes as a mission area. Railway has achieved record electrification of 4087 RKM in 2017-18 which is the best ever figure of electrification in history of Indian Railway.
In September,2018 the Union Cabinet has approved proposal for complete electrification of BG network of Indian Railways by 2021-22.