Goods Trains Chug Along Carrying Essentials Amid Fall In Bulk Loadings

Amid the drastic fall in loadings of bulk commodities, Indian Railways is continuing with efforts to ensure availability of essential commodities to provide edible oil, milk, foodgrains and petroleum products among others by pressing into service over 400 rakes across the country.

Besides IRCTC, the Railways’ catering arm has set up a base kitchen for preparing meals to be distributed among the migrants stranded near stations and bus stops.

On Saturday, IRCTC prepared 2000 khichdi meals and distributed near New Delhi, Shakurbasti and Nizamuddin stations.

With the financial year closing on March 31, the freight operation is staring at a fall by 15 million tons than last year’s loading.

In 2019-20 budget, freight loading target by the Railways is 1,223 million tonnes (MT), of which 50 per cent is coal and the rest other commodities.

Goods loading has been reduced to almost half as compared to the month of January-February as loadings of cement, steel, iron ore, fertiliser and coal, the mainstay of the national transporter, have witnessed continuous downslide in the period of national crisis.

In the prevailing situation, the Cement loading is almost nil now while steel has been reduced significantly.

Coal loading, which is almost 50 per cent of the total freight, has been reduced to 80 per cent of its total demand as thermal power firms are also reworking their fuel transportation strategy to cut costs.

Iron ore and fertiliser are also being loaded less than the target, according to railways.

There are about 1200 rakes which generally remain on the move out of 5500 freight trains during the busy season. But since the bulk loadings have come down drastically due to the absence of demand in the wake of economic slowdown, about 600 rakes are now operational.

On the 3rd day of the nation-wide complete lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State-run transporter is making an all-out effort to reach out to every corner of the country with its non-stop freight service.

The staff is deployed at various good sheds, stations and control offices round the clock during the lockdown situation in all the States, said a senior Railway Ministry official involved in monitoring the freight movement.

According to railways, on March 27, 34,648 wagons carried supplies to keep the supply chains functional. Of these, 23,682 wagons of essential commodities were ferried by the public behemoth in 425 rakes to ensure that the supply chains keep functioning.

Out of the total 23,682 wagons which were loaded for essential commodities, there were 1576 wagons of foodgrains, 42 wagons of fruits and vegetables, 42 wagons of sugar, 42 wagons of salt, 20488 wagons of coal, and 1492 wagons of petroleum products.

It may be noted that MHA has lifted restrictions on the movement of goods to facilitate easy loading and unloading at the various locations across the nation. This has removed ground level discretions in permissions regarding loading and unloading of goods of various kinds at Terminals spread across India.

In the trying circumstances, special efforts are being made by Indian Railways to ferry these goods to maintain the supply chain in the lockdown period.