Things may get worse for Rlys on freight front

New Delhi, January 16: | Updated: Jan 17 2002, 05:30am hrs
If things were bad for the Railways this year, it would certainly be worse in the 150th year of railway in India. Going by the indications of user ministries, the railways will get an incremental freight traffic of only 12 million tonne (mt) on its expected 485 mt this year, which will be even less than the current years target of 500 mt.

In fact, for the first time in freight carrying history of the indian railways, the petroleum ministry has indicated a negative 1 mt growth in POL movement through the rail mode. According to official sources, the petroleum ministry attributed this fall in traffic to coming up of pipelines.

The steel ministry, on its part, had said that there would be no growth since the industry expected the continuation of the recessionary phase. There would be no possibility of steel exports showing buoyancy and, therefore, no incremental traffic can be pledged to the Railways, they said.

As a part of the Budget exercise, the railway board had earlier this week conducted a meeting of the concerned ministries where traffic projections were discussed. A total of 13 mt increase with a negative 1 mt for petroleum, oil and lubricant was indicated during the meeting.

The coal ministry had made a projection of an increase of 6 mt in the total coal movement through the railways. However, the payment for coal being lifted by the railways for the state electricity boards are already running into arrears of more than Rs 1,500 crore.

The industry ministry, which furnished details for the cement industry, projected an increase of 2 mt in volume to be moved by the railways. Officials however quoted that the cement industry has cited cheaper transportation through the road as the reason for not opting for the rail mode.

The Metal and Mineral Trading Corporation (MMTC), which exports iron ore from India, has made a projection of an increase of 1 mt. A growth in foodgrains is being estimated at 2 mt.

Officials said that though the railways have received estimates from the concerned ministries, the freight loading target for 2002-03 would be set only after the railway board makes an approval. However, in all probability the target would be set higher than 500 mt even though indications are towards the contrary, they said.