Speaking to FE, senior railway officials said there is an estimated need for about 20,750 wagons, 154 locomotives and 2030 coaches during 2003-04. The Railways had made provision for about 17,000 wagons during the current year and procured just 8,400 wagons in 2001-02.
There are about 10 wagon manufactures in the country with some of them making losses. In fact, Jessop, Braithwaite, Burn & Co and Indian Standard Wagons had to be taken over by the Union government.
The Railways spends about Rs 4,000 crore on its total rolling stock business but the budget for passenger coaches normally eats into the rolling stock requirement for freight traffic. Coaches found a priority over wagons though it was the latter which gave the Railways more revenue, said a senior official.
The current year is the first in the history of Railways when it has been able to meet the incremental loading target in the first seven months. The real parameter of Railways freight business is the distance over which freight is carried which is calculated in terms of net tonne per kilometre (NTKm). This also showed about 11 per cent increase till November 30, 2002 over the same period in 2001-02.
New coaches are bought for replacement as well as to meet the rolling requirement for new trains. Demand for coaches also increases if the frequency for trains is increased.
Railway coaches are manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory in Kapurthala in Punjab while locomotives are made at Diesel Locomotive Works and Chittranjan Locomotive Works.
There is a requirement of about 69 electric and 85 diesel locomotives. Out of these about 50 are new generation locomotives being manufactured under transfer of technology deal with ABB and General Motors, said an official.
A lot of rolling stock of the Railways is wasted due to high turnaround time. This is especially true for the freight wagons and locomotives. The Railways gives preference to mail and express trains over freight trains. The freight traffic has to make way for passenger trains, said an official.
The availability of empty rakes (train) becomes a problem even when the loading is offered to the Railways. This forces railway customers to move consignments by road in case the distances are short, said an official.