Indian Railways deploys car rakes to shore up profit. On the lines of the ‘Conraj’ trains, Railway minister Suresh Prabhu recently inaugurated time-tabled container trains to ply the Delhi-Bengaluru route.
Need to place your product such as a high end pricey car in the show room in mint fresh condition straight from the assembly line — send it by train!
This is what the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Company opted for when they had to ship cars from their newly created high-tech plant at Bidadi, 30 km west of Bengaluru, almost a decade back. The move was made much more attractive because of the 20 per cent cost advantage it offered for transport by road to Delhi — its major distribution centre in North India.
Seized with the challenge posed by the company located in its back yard, and looking for new avenues for earnings some of the eager beaver Railway engineers at Hubli, headquarters of the newly created zone of South Western Railway, swung into action and got the first set of NGM rake ready for trials. Soon after conducting test runs, the first batch of Toyotas left Bidadi for Delhi achieving a major breakthrough in transport of cars by rail.
Soon, a large number of special rakes of NMG (New Modified GS’s) converted from the highly popular GS (general purpose second class) coaches were placed at the disposal of Toyota. Each coach carrying 5 Toyota ended up with 125 of them in a rake of 25 coaches delivered to Delhi for the highly lucrative northern sector.
In 2005-06 alone, a total of 63 rakes earned Rs 4.5 crores in revenues for the South Western Railway. Presently, 4 such rakes are in operation, around 2 such rakes having being loaded recently destined this time for Chandigarh earning Railways Rs 20 lakh for each trip.
Later, some high pressure marketing by South Central Managers resulted in the TVS factory at Hosur also getting interested in this cost-effective means of transport of their high-end motor bikes over long distances, mostly to towns up north and northeast.
Presently, only during the busy season of October-March, around 2 rakes per week get loaded with TVS mopeds at Hosur, where special arrangements have been made saving it considerable haulage charges. In a bid to reduce empty running, Northern Railways strives to ensure the return trip carries Maruti Suzuki cars or Kinetic Honda scooters unloading them at Dodballapur, a suburb of Bengaluru.
Maruti Suzuki, which has been using rail transport for over two decades using the NGM wagons, recently got 3 brand new rakes of 27 wagons each with flexi decking built by Texmaco of Kolkata to RDSO design (Type BCACBM ). Capable of carrying 318 small size cars at top speed of 95 kmph covering Gurgaon to Bangalore — their distribution centre in South India — in 5 days.
Three types of special wagons, NMG, BCACAM, and BCABCM, carry 125, 265 and 286 respectively of small cars such as Alto and Swift, in each rake. With 10 NMG, 2 BCACAM and 3 BCACBM rakes at its disposal, Maruti-Suzuki’s premier manufacturing facility at Gurgaon has its delivery logistics pretty well sorted.
Loading almost every third day it now despatches cars to varied destinations such as Kolkata, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Siliguri safe, fast and without a scratch or speck of dust to mar its polished surface.
Interestingly, the flexi deck wagons carry Maruti cars for export reach Mundra Port in 36 hours, in the process earning railways around Rs 32 lakhs per trip and saving Maruti Udyog almost double the cost in road transport while assuring timely delivery for loading a ship working to a tight schedule.
On the lines of the ‘Conraj’ (Container Rajdhani) trains which has an average transit time of 42 hours from Delhi to Mumbai, railway minister Suresh Prabhu recently inaugurated a time tabled Container trains to run between Delhi and Bengaluru. It completed its maiden journey to ICD terminal at Whitefield in 52 hours, a distance which normally would take a road transporter in about a week.
The day is not far when the Car carrier specials trains too would provide car manufacturers time bound rail transport, getting them to increasingly opt for it to varied destinations especially to Ports where delays can prove to be quite costly!