Railways rationalize Freight Rates for short lead traffic under Merry-go-Round system

Facing competition from road sector, Railways rationalised the Freight Policy with the formulation of “merry-go-around” (MGR) scheme to increase the coal loadings from pitheads to plants

Merry Go Round Indian RailwaysNew Delhi: Indian Railways have announced rationalization of freight rates for short lead traffic under the Merry-go-round (MGR) system operated between coal mines and thermal plants and between ports and coastal thermal plants.

In order to provide an economical and reliable alternative short lead traffic, a revised scheme with rationalised lumpsum rates for MGR has been formulated. Conditions for which are as follows:

  • The MGR Terminals at both ends shall be privately owned and will operate round the clock.
  • Rail track between the two terminals will be provided by the customer.
  • Railways will provide locos, wagons, brake-vans and other rolling stock as per requirement for running of the rakes under MGR system.
  • Lumpsum rates charged under the MGR System would depend upon the number of rake loaded per day and the lead of traffic.

The revised rates aimed to generate additional revenue to the tune of Rs 500 crore in the 2016-17 fiscal, will come into effect from 1st April this year according to an official release.

The revised Merry-go-round rates will be around INR 47 per ton carried by BOXN wagons for 18  kilometer lead, as compared to road rates of Rs 72 per tonne for the same distance.  The wagons could make 2 or 3 trips a day.

The road transport rates for the same lead (Distance) works out to INR 72 per ton. Rationalization of freight rates were announced in the recent railway budget in an effort to take on the completion from the road sector. Of late, freight carried by the road sector is on the increase while railway’s freight earnings have dwindled. The trend was observed during the last few years.

The new rates have been announced to reverse the trend. Singareni collieries in Telangana have committed to the Railways additional coal traffic to the tune of four million tons in the next financial year if the freight rates are rationalised.

The MGR terminals at both ends are privately owned. The rail track between the two terminals will be provided by the customer. The terminals at both ends will operate round the clock. MGR systems are popular in connecting port with coastal thermal plants, collieries with thermal or cement plants for short distances.

Explaining the details, Railway Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed said “Generally Railways carry goods on long distance travel. The MGR is for shorter distance.” He further said: “It will be like a circular rail where after loading from the pithead, it will be unloaded in the nearby plants and the rake will come back again for loading and it will continue for many times round the clock as per the requirement.”

Rationalisation of freight policy was announced in the Railway Budget. “Since it was announced in the budget as policy reforms, we have revised the rate keeping the road sector in mind,” he said. “We have discussed the issue with the stakeholders before formulating the policy. It will start immediately at Singareni Collieries,” he said, adding “We are giving competition to the road sector.” He said the MGR give railways about 5 million tonne additional loading which means Rs 500 crore revenue earning in the 2016-17 fiscal. As per the policy, MGR terminals and track will be privately owned and railways will provide locomotive, wagons and staff to operate the freight train.


As per the Railway Ministry the revised MGR System will bring in following benefits: For 18 km lead, the revised MGR rates would be around Rs. 47 per ton (BOXN wagons) or 2-3 trips per day as compared to road rates of Rs. 72 per ton for the same lead. Singareni Collieries Ltd. has committed to give around 3 to 4 million tonnes of additional traffic with the rationalised rates in the next financial year. The rationalised rates shall come into force from 1st of April 2016.

History of Merry-go-Round Train:

A merry-go-round train, often abbreviated to MGR, is a block train of hopper wagons which both loads and unloads its cargo while moving. In the United Kingdom, they are most commonly coal trains delivering to power stations. These trains were introduced in the 1960s, and were one of the few innovations of the Beeching axe, along with investment from the CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) and the N.C.B. (National Coal Board) into new power stations and loading facilities. West Burton Power Station was used as a testing ground for the MGR system but the first power station to receive its coal by MGR wasCockenzie in Scotland in 1966. It was estimated at the time that the 80 MGR hoppers needed to feed Cockenzie would replace up to 1500 conventional wagons. A 1.2 GW power station, such as Cockenzie, receives up to 3 million tons of coal a year, whereas a larger 2 GW plant, like West Burton, up to 5 million tons per year. By the end of 1966 there were about 900 wagons carrying 53,000 tons a week to four power stations. Power stations that were built to handle the new MGR traffic were Aberthaw, Drax, Didcot, Eggborough, Ferrybridge C, Fiddlers Ferry and Ratcliffe, all of which, apart from Didcot are still open for traffic. Many of the older power stations were gradually converted to MGR operation.

The MGR Hopper Wagons

There were 11,162 MGR hoppers built. The numbering ranges were 350000-359571, 365000-366129 and 368000-368459. The two prototype wagons, 350000 and 350001, were built at Darlington works in 1964 and 1965 respectively, following which several large batches were constructed at the nearby Shildon works. With the exceptions of the two prototypes built at Darlington and the 160 wagons built at Ashford, all 10,702 HAA wagons and 460 HDA wagons were built there. Most of the early wagons (up to 355396) were originally lettered with B prefix numbers but these were later removed.

While the majority of the wagons were built as HAAs, the final batch (built in 1982 as 368000-368459) were coded as HDA to indicate their ability to operate at up to 60 mph when empty instead of the standard 45 mph. This was achieved through modifications to the design of the brakes. Another variation, which did not initially result in a change of TOPS code, was the fitting of top canopies to increase the load volume. Many of the early wagons had these but then lost them and for some years canopied hoppers were only common in Scotland.

When MGR services were first introduced, British Rail designed an all-new wagon with air brakes and a capacity for 33 tonnes of pulverised coal. The prototype was a 32-ton unit and was built at Darlington and tested in 1964. Before the introduction of TOPS these wagons were referred to by the telegraphic code name “HOP AB 33”, this was an abbreviation of Hopper Air Brake 33 tonne.

With the coming of privatisation to Britain’s railways, new wagon types have been introduced by EWS (HTA), GBRf (HYA), Freightliner Heavy Haul (HHA and HXA) and Jarvis Fastline (IIA). These new wagons have increased tonnage and air-operated doors that do away with the need for the “Dalek” release mechanism at the power station end of the trip.

Locomotive control

Locomotives used on the MGR trains needed to be fitted with electronic speed control known as Slow Speed Control, so that the driver could engage the system and the train could proceed at a fixed very slow speed under the loading and unloading facilities. The system was originally fitted to some members of Class 20, Class 26 andClass 47. Later, some members of Class 37 were also fitted, while the system was fitted to all members of classes 56, 58, 59, 60 and 66. Additionally, all Class 50s were originally fitted, although the system was later removed due to non-use.

The class 47 locomotives were replaced by the class 56’s in 1977 with an increase of the number of wagons in a train, in most cases to around 30 to 34. This was followed by the class 58’s and the class 60’s. Two of this class 60’s were named in honour of the men behind the MGR system, 60092 Reginald Munns and 60093 Jack Stirk. A small number of other locomotives were modified for working MGR’s. In Scotland the class 26 and some class 20’s and in South Wales some class 37’s.

In 1985 another change started, Driver Only Operated (DOO), after a short training session on the wagons which basically showed how to isolate a defective brake. MGR trains in the Worksop and Shirebrook areas to West Burton and Cottam started running. These trains initially had a yellow painted tail lamp to identify that the train was DOO. As the system rapidly developed in all areas the use of these yellow tail lamps was discontinued.


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