During the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, the farmers could not move this essential commodity by road, according to the Railway Ministry.
In a first, Indian Railways transported a loaded Special Parcel Train beyond the country borders! The national transporter, for the first time, sent a train to Benapole in the neighbouring country Bangladesh with dry chillies from Reddipalem in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. The district of Guntur, as well as its nearby areas in Andhra Pradesh, are popular for Chillies cultivation. Earlier, dry chillies were transported to Bangladesh in small quantities by farmers and merchants in and around Guntur area, using the mode of roadways. That used to cost around Rs 7,000 per tonne. During the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, the farmers could not move this essential commodity by road, according to the Railway Ministry.
Then officials of Indian Railways approached the consignors and explained the facilities to transport by the national transporter. Accordingly, the dry chillies were transported by the rail network in bulk through goods trains. To move consignment through goods or freight trains, bulk quantity mobilization is required. This means at least over 1,500 tonnes are required to be transported on each train trip. However, to facilitate the movement of dry chillies in small quantities i.e., up to a maximum of 500 tonnes in each trip, the South Central Railways’ Guntur Division came forward and run the Special Parcel Express to Bangladesh.
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According to the Railway Ministry, one Special Parcel Express train comprising of 16 Parcel Vans transported to Benapole. Each of these Parcel Vans was loaded with as many as 466 Dry Chillies bags, weighing about 19.9 Tonnes. Therefore, the Special Parcel Express carried a weight of around 384 Tonnes in total. The ministry further stated the cost per tonne for carrying by the Special Parcel Express is Rs 4,608. This is comparatively cheap and economical as the road transport costs around Rs 7,000 per tonne.
In order to boost parcel train traffic during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic period, the national transporter has taken a series of steps. From 22 March 2020 to 11 July 2020, as many as 4,434 parcel trains have been operated, out of which 4,304 have been time-tabled trains.