Despite Indian Railways (IR) putting in place enough wagons to transport coal, its freight from the commodity is likely to be hit as subsidiaries of Coal India (CIL) are not being able to load the targeted quantities. At the start of the year, the coal-loading target for CIL was agreed at 244 rakes per day. However, during the first three months of financial year 2018, coal loading from CIL averaged at 220 rakes per day. In a meeting between the coal ministry and the railway ministry on June 30, it was jointly decided that CIL would load 239 rakes per day for the second. However, the national miner managed only an average loading of 213 in July and 208 rakes per day in August till date. Coal is the most important source of freight revenue for the railways and makes up for the 60% of such revenue. Normally the transporter loads 350-odd rakes of coal per day, of which CIL makes up the bulk. The railways has also seen a dip in movement of imported coal by 15 rakes per day. This is due to a government directive to stop coal import for state-run power houses earlier this year. During 2016-17, state-owned power plants imported around 12 million tonne (mt) of coal, less than a quarter of the volume imported during 2015-16.
According to a railway official, the two ministries met again on August 21. “We met with chief operations managers of various railways, chairman of coal companies and the coal secretary. It was decided to load 226 rakes per day for the rest of August and September,” said the official. However, up to August 27, the average loading was 208 rakes per day for August.The freight-loading volume of the railways was around 1,107 mt in financial year 2016-17 compared with a revised target of 1,094 mt, and 1,104 mt achieved in the previous year. The marginal increase was despite losing 60 mt of coal loading due to low demand from power houses and reduction in imported coal traffic.
“This time Indian Railways has surplus rakes available for loading and transportation of coal.
This was never the condition before,” said the official quoted above, adding that despite a dip in loading by CIL till date this financial year, it is comparably better than last year for the same time period. CIL’s average loading this year till date is 215 rakes per day compared with 208 for last year. However, the time taken to load rakes has gone up. Normally a rake should be loaded in three hours, but some sidings if CIL subsidiaries are taking up to seven-eight hours due to lack of coal at loading sites.
For example, at one of the sidings with Eastern Coalfields the loading time has gone up to 6.15 hours against the standard 4 hours. At one of the sites of Bharat Coking Coal, which is affected by the closure of the Chandrapura rail line, it is taking up to 12 hours against 9 hours to load a rake.