S. Vydhianathan

Both the luggage vans in mail, express trains to be leased out

The move will affect small traders dealing with perishable itemsThey want Railway Minister to do justice to them

CHENNAI: The Railway Board has turned down Southern Railway's plea not to lease both the luggage vans in mail and express trains to private contractors in the interest of small traders.

At present, there are two luggages cum brake vans in all mail and express trains each having a capacity of eight tonnes.

A few years ago, the Board with a view to increasing the parcel earnings, leased out the luggage van in the rear of the trains to private contractors and keep the other van for its own bookings.

Now the railways has also decided to lease the other luggage van to improve sundry earnings. Advertisements seeking quotations from private contractors for hiring the luggage vans in major trains had been released and the response was extremely good, according to sources in the Southern Railway.

They said contractors were ready to offer 60 to 70 per cent more than the upset price fixed by the administration, especially for the Chennai - New Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Grant Trunk Expresses. The move by the Board would affect small traders, especially those dealing with perishable articles, as they could not afford to pay the charges fixed by private contractors.

However, one consolation for them is that 50 per cent of one luggage van could be retained by local railway administration for booking public parcels.

The sources said following representation from small consigners, Southern Railway wrote to the Board a few weeks ago requesting for flexibility in the leasing policy in the interest of small traders. But the Board expressed its inability stating that it was a policy decision announced by the Minister on the floor of the House .

The sources here said, with three fourth of the parcel vans under the control of private contractors, booking charges would go up. Even now private contractors were charging Rs 6 to 8 per kg as against the railway's Rs 2.50 a kg. While big traders would not hesitate to pay higher charges to corner the available space, the contractors too would prefer bulk bookings, as it would fetch them more revenue.

As very limited space would be available to railways, it would not be possible to clear the parcels in time, which in turn would affect the delivery schedule. They said not only luggage vans even parcel coaches, which were attached to some mail and express trains were given on lease. These coaches with a capacity of 25 tonnes each were convenient for small consigners to book their parcels. Now they were also given on lease, they added.

The Railway Ministry is driving out small traders, who had been the customers of railways for decades. They wanted the Railway Minister to intervene and do justice to them.