NEW DELHI: After achieving the highest-ever freight loading in the last financial year, Indian Railways has got some assured business from the Power Ministry for the next three years. With an assured incremental demand, the transporter now aims to build capacity to handle more traffic. It also plans to order another 22,000 wagons by June-end, taking the overall order to 40,000 wagons, Railway Board’s Member-Traffic, Mohammad Jamshed told in an interview. Excerpts:
How has the Railways’ earnings been in 2017-18?
We have achieved highest ever gross earning of ₹1.78 lakh crore, up 8 per cent against last year. This was supported by highest ever freight revenue of ₹1.17 lakh crore, up 12 per cent year on year. The passenger earnings are at ₹48,643 crore, up five per cent.
What are the freight loading and passenger growth data for the last fiscal?
Railways loaded an incremental 52.87 mt in fiscal 2018 — the highest incremental loading since fiscal 2011— achieving a total load of 1161.7 mt. Maximum ever loading has been done for coal, pig iron and steel, cement, container and other goods. The yearly growth in iron and steel, cement and container loading has been highest ever in the last eight years. This has been a year of unprecedented growth and regaining market share. We also saw improvement in NTKM which measures the actual output of freight transportation as it takes both loading and distance into account. This is on account of various policy directives, including all rail route one..
How has coal loading fared?
In terms of coal, the rakes loaded per day were 376.9 in fiscal 2015, the number moved up to 382.5 in fiscal 2016 and dropped to 373 in fiscal 2017. During fiscal 2018, the Railways loaded an average of 390 rakes a day. November onwards, coal loading was at 425 rakes a day, with highest ever loading of 458 rakes a day in March 2018. The demand for coal transportation remains buoyant this year as well. We have already achieved a loading of 435 rakes per day in April. Demand from both power and non-power sector during fiscal 2019 is expected to remain firm throughout the year.
How can you say that the demand for coal won’t drop?
Demand for power production and consumption is going up. Power Ministry, after discussion with stakeholders, has assured the Railways of incremental demand for coal transportation from the power sector for the next three years at about 20 mt extra every year.
Didn’t the sharp hike in coal movement affect wagon availability for other commodities?
Yes, it did, as we gave highest importance to coal movement for power houses. But, despite this, we managed loading a lot more of other commodities as well as reflected by the above data.
Is this demand a reflection of the economy, or is it pure rail sector demand?
Certain things are not directly linked to core sector. This higher transportation demand is because of the customers adopting rail sector on account of policies introduced like long-term agreements, removal of port congestion surcharge.
With international coal prices going up, private industry is also demanding local coal. Wherever coal is being produced, we are assigning first priority to loading coal.
Do you have the capacity to handle incremental, assured demand?
Infrastructure investment is being done — all the doubling, triple line dedicated freight corridor, among others.
But, we will get them only after three years. For rolling stock, we have usually been conservative. Now, we have decided to have more and more high powered engines and higher wagons.
Until now, we usually used to order 8,000-9,000 wagons every year, of which half used to replace the condemned wagons.
Now, as on April 1, we have given the largest ever wagon order to the industry – 18,000 wagons. Another 22,000 wagon orders will be finalised by June.
We have about 2.5 lakh wagons in the system. Our plan is to make transport supply availability ‘peak (demand) plus, not average plus.’
More wagons would also mean using the longer routes — till other track capacity is created. This also means more locomotives and we would also require more people.
Will the industry be able to supply so much?
We have informed them. They have spruced up — from supplying 500 wagons a month to about 900. We have asked them to supply 2,000 wagons a month.