Apparently facilitating the announcement of new mail and express trains in the coming budget, the Railways have worked out a blueprint for more and heavier haul freight trains based on the latest technology without incurring additional cost.

At a seminar on heavy haul operations here on Monday, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal hinted at a move in this direction by underlining capacity building in the freight sector in the interest of the economy and reducing the cost of transportation.

As the proposed dedicated freight corridors are still a few years away, the Railways have decided to generate capacity using the present infrastructure — wagon, tracks and locomotive — with the introduction of technology.

The general norm is to haul 60 wagons with two locos but the stress is on matching international standards of drawing heavier loads as in South Africa, where 224 wagons are pulled with multiple locomotives transporting 32,000 tonnes.

India has progressed, with three locos pulling 116 wagons carrying a load of 10,200 tonnes, thereby saving on time and ensuring faster delivery, besides decongesting traffic to the benefit of passenger trains. But only 25 such 1.5-km long heavy haul freight trains operate daily, thanks to operational difficulties.

An added benefit of heavy haul operations is that the speed of freight trains has increased from 24 to 39 kmph. Next year, the objective is to increase it to 70 km with the induction of the distributed power supply system (DPSS), which will allow the driver to command the other locos attached to the heavy haul train through remote control based on radio frequency. This will not only reduce the number of drivers but also ensure efficient running of trains as all engines operate simultaneously, be it when starting them or bringing them to a halt, which is not the case now, causing consternation at times.

The Railways are now operating three such trains on a pilot basis though each loco is manned by a driver. To remove the other constraint of parking heavy haul trains on the loop line when they are not on the track, the Railways have decided to extend the loop lines to the required 1.5-km length.