In an attempt to increase its share in automobile transportation in the country, the Indian Railways is exploring to develop ‘auto terminals’ to facilitate easy loading and unloading of vehicles. At present, only around 10% of newly manufactured vehicles are transported by automakers through railways. Directions in this regard has been issued by railway minister Piyush Goyal, and comes close to the Prime Minister’s Office giving a stiff target to railways to augment its freight business, including redirecting 20 million tonne (MT) of additional cargo from road to rail by the end of FY18, as reported by FE earlier. In FY17, the freight loading traffic of railways was around 1,107 MT compared with a revised target of 1,094 MT, and 1,104 MT achieved in the previous year. The freight loading target for 2017-18 is 1,165 MT. The revenue from freight during the last fiscal was around Rs 1,07,000 crore compared with a revised estimate of Rs 99,555 crore, and Rs 1,04,000 crore in 2015-16.
Automobile manufacturing in the country is bunched mostly in Tamil Nadu, Pune in Maharashtra and around Sanand in Gujarat, with few manufacturing units scattered in other parts of the country. Automakers usually use roads to transport vehicles to dealers spread across various parts of the country. In October, 1,84,666 units of passenger vehicles were sold by automakers to dealers, while 79,323 utility vehicles were sold. According to railway ministry sources, the Indian Railways is also looking at ways to utilise auto car wagons to load alternative commodities while returning to base stations so that revenue can be further optimised. In 2014, car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki started using flexi deck auto-wagon rake with enhanced capacity from its manufacturing unit in Gurgaon. In 2016, railways also started time-bound ‘Auto Express’ from Gurgaon which apart from taking less time also promised to decrease carbon footprint. The minister had also asked that the new railway time table, introduced earlier this month, should allow time-bound running of freight trains and that they should be run in bunches.