Economy

Despite slowdown, Railways confident of higher freight revenues

Chairman Railway Board Vinod Kumar Yadav.

Chairman Railway Board Vinod Kumar Yadav.  

In June, our freight traffic is more than 90%, if you compare this with April and May, it is very encouraging,” Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said during a video-conference.

Even as the economic environment in the country remains uncertain, the Indian Railways on Friday said it is confident of bettering last year’s freight revenues driven by rising demand for transport of commodities such as foodgrains, coal, steel and cement.

“My assessment is that earnings from freight should be better than last year...the freight traffic has started picking up...signalling a pick up in economic activity…the movement of cement, coal, fertilizer, steel, iron ore has started picking up. In June, our freight traffic is more than 90%, if you compare this with April and May, it is very encouraging,” Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said during a video-conference.

Also read | GDP growth slows to a 11-year low of 4.2%, Q4 slumps to 3.1%

He added that broadly the Railways earns about ₹50,000 crore from passenger segment and around ₹1,30,000 crore from freight.

“The way freight is picking up and the way Indian Railways is making efforts to transport more commodities...I don't see any difficulty that we will have more earnings than last year,” Mr. Yadav said.

The Railways earnings from freight declined by about ₹8,000 crore during April and May as compared to the same period last year. However, Mr Yadav said, “In the coming months, we will be able to catch up in the freight segment.”

As per data shared by the Chairman, freight loading increased from 65 million tonnes in April 2020, to 82 million tonnes in May 2020 and was 52 million tonnes till June 17, 2020. For the first three months of the fiscal, total freight loading stood at 200 million tonnes as against 262 million tonnes in the same month last year.

The loading for food grain during the quarter zoomed 83% to 13.63 tonnes compared to 7.44 tonnes in April-June 2019.

On the passenger segment — for which services remained suspended for nearly 40 days, following which very limited services have been started — Mr. Yadav said there is some “uncertainty”.

Zero Imports

Replying to a question on whether the Railways is considering banning Chinese firms from participating in any of its projects, Mr. Yadav said in most railway tenders only domestic players are allowed to participate.

“Mostly, Ministry of Railways tenders are invited as per domestic competitive bidding where only domestic bidders are allowed to participate,” he said.

He added that for the past two to three years, the Railways has also been working to reduce imports. “Our effort is to ensure that we use more and more made-in-India products and make the import component zero. We are also making efforts to see that the products manufactured in railways are exported,” Mr. Yadav said.

The statement comes a day after the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India, a special purpose vehicle under the Ministry of Railways, decided to terminate a ₹471 crore signalling contract given to a Chinese firm citing “poor progress”.

COVID care coaches

The Railways on Friday said it has deployed a total of 960 COVID care coaches in five States on demand. A maximum of 503 such coaches have been deployed in Delhi at nine locations, followed by 372 coaches in Uttar Pradesh at 23 locations, 20 coaches in Andhra Pradesh, 60 in Telangana and 5 in Madhya Pradesh.

The Railways had modified a total of 5,231 non-AC coaches for COVID care. “The issue of AC vs non-AC coaches was discussed with the NITI Aayog and the MoHFW... It was agreed that AC coaches would not be suitable in view of the potential transmission risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) virus through AC ducting, and generally a higher ambient temperature was expected to assist in fighting the virus and cross circulation of air through open windows will benefit patients,” the Railways said in a statement.

However, to tackle heat inside the coaches, the Railways said it is implementing measures, including use of bamboo sticks, bubble-wraps and heat-resistant paint. It added that cover-sheets are also being placed over these coaches to help keep the interiors cool.

“Bubble-wrap films are being applied on the coaches, which are expected to keep inside temperatures down by one degree Celsius,” it said, adding that as a trial, the Northern Railways coated the roof of isolation coaches with heat-reflective paint and found that temperature inside can be reduced up to 2.2°C using this method.

Additionally, a trial has also been done by placing portable coolers inside these coaches. A temperature reduction of up to 3°C was achieved using these coolers, the Railways said. “Water mist systems are also being tried out. In the current season of dry air, it is expected that the resulting temperature reduction would enhance the comfort of expected patients,” it said.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 1:36:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/despite-slowdown-railways-confident-of-higher-freight-revenues/article31872063.ece

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