Infrastructure projects related to coal production and its transportation through the railways are set to get a push. The main agenda of a meeting called by new railway minister Piyush Goyal, who is also in charge of coal, in Kolkata on Saturday, is to review the progress in coal production and chalk out a plan to remove all obstacles that are hitting production and coal loading, leading to shortages at power houses, both government and private.
The agenda of the meeting include railway projects in Tori-Shivpuri-Kathotia, Magadha mine, Amrapali open-cast mine (all in Jharkhand), Jharsuguda-Barpali (Odisha), Shaktinagar-Chopan (Uttar Pradesh), East Rail Corridor, Kharsia (Chhattisgarh) and Mahanadi Coal Railway (Odisha), among others. All these projects are related to coal mines and transportation of coal.
The participants of the meeting includes IRCON International, RITES, zonal railways and Rail Vikas Nigam — who are engaged in railway projects at the earlier mentioned sites — apart from representatives from the coal industry.
As reported by FE earlier, the government had announced many railway line projects including that in the Central Coalfields (CIL) and Mahanadi Coalfields areas to ensure seamless transportation of coal from mines to plants, though a few of them have been commissioned even after three years of such announcement. In addition, the closure of the Chandrapura-Dhanbad railway stretch has led to a supply shortfall of 8-10 rakes per day, leading to many power houses running at critically low levels of coal.
However, coal loading has gone up in the last three days —mostly after Goyal took over — by CIL subsidiaries. “We have seen coal loading of 218, 212, 224 rakes per day in the last three days,” said a government official, requesting not to be named.
FE also reported that the coal loading target by CIL has been revised thrice this financial year and even though the targets have not been met. A target of 244 rakes per day of coal loading by CIL was decided at the start of the year but the average stood at 220 for the first three months.
The target was then revised to 239 rakes per day for the second quarter and then again to 226 towards the end of August. However, the national miner managed to load 213 rakes per day in July and 208 rakes per day in August.
Coal comprises 60% of the freight volume of the national transporter. The freight loading volume of the railways was around 1,107 mt for financial year 2016-17 as against 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. The official quoted above said now that now both sides will be cautious on giving targets. “Earlier there used to be friction among the railway and coal departments. With Goyal having both the portfolios, it is going to give very rich dividends,” said the official, adding that infrastructure that is required for future coal production and transportation — projects such as that in Talcher (Odisha) which are funded by CIL and RITES — will now come into focus.