New Delhi: The Railways’ move to upgrade its network to carry more cargo is expected to create additional capacity of about 15-16 million tonne a year, without investing in more wagons.
At present, about 35,000 route km that cover about 70 per cent of rail lines engaged in carrying freight allow for higher carrying capacity, according to a Railway Ministry source.
“Through this proposal, freight users will pay the same charges per tonne. But, they can move more cargo per train. Also, for the Railways, the load per wagon will increase only by about two tonnes, as these routes currently permit two tonne less loads per wagon,” said an official.
However, the move will require an incremental investment of about Rs.2,000 crore to replace old tracks and upgrades, said another Railway Ministry official.
Wagons can carry a load of pre-defined capacity plus nine tonnes, with a leeway to load one more tonne without any overload penalty across the entire railway network, according to the interim budget. In the Indian Railways network, the average load carried per wagon is about 62 tonne, though some wagons carry up to 67 tonne .
A capacity creation of 15 million tonne will account for about 30 per cent of the 50 million tonne incremental loading that the railways aim to move in the next fiscal. In 2014-15, the railways has set a target to move 1,101 million tonne of cargo. To carry higher load per wagon, the Railways needs to invest in wagons, improving the rail tracks and bridges.
Incidentally, the pace of wagon acquisition has slowed in the last few years with each wagon being able to carry higher load at one end, and the loading growth slowing down on the back of an economic slowdown.
This is also reflected in the lower amounts market borrowings proposed for the next year — ₹12,800 crore from about ₹14,000 crore — for procuring rolling stock including wagons, locomotives and coaches. However, railway officials maintain that they will revise the borrowing target upwards if required.