Railways cancels 42 passenger trains to facilitate coal movement amid looming power crisis

Thousands of travellers left stranded in peak wedding, holdiay season

Updated - April 30, 2022 07:07 pm IST

Published - April 29, 2022 11:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI/ RAIPUR

A coal-laden goods train passes through the Faridabad railway station, Friday, April 29, 2022.

A coal-laden goods train passes through the Faridabad railway station, Friday, April 29, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid the possibility of a power crisis due to shortage of coal, the Indian Railways has cancelled around 42 passenger trains so far to ensure faster delivery to and from coal producing regions of Chattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Even though the Railways has said that this is an ‘interim measure’ and cancellations have mostly taken place in non-priority sectors and less busy routes, many passengers have been left in the lurch ahead of the upcoming summer holiday season.

Among the trains that have been cancelled to facilitate movement of freight trains carrying coal, 34 are from the coal rich South East Central Railway (SECR) and eight from Northern Railways where many of the power plants are based.

The cancellations of such a large number of trains has resulted in protests. The Chhattisgarh State Congress has been threatening, among other things, of blocking the movement of coal from the local mines, which may add to the woes of the stressed power sector.

The State’s Congress Media Cell Chairman Sushil Anand Shukla said, “...It is not possible for just seven trains to cover the routes or bear the load of the passengers. So we will continue to protest and do whatever it takes to resume normal operations. It's the poor who are the worst affected by such decisions.”

Asked if CM Bhupesh Baghel, who left for Delhi on Friday evening, would also meet the Union Railway Minister to discuss a more amicable solution of the issue, Mr Shukla said it was unlikely as Mr Baghel was going specifically to attend an event.

Watch | India on the brink of a power crisis due to coal shortage

As per official data, following the cancellations, the Railways has raised the average daily loading of coal rakes to over 400 per day, which is the highest in the past five years. Railway officials said the national transporter has put 533 rakes for coal duty daily with as many as 427 rakes loaded on Thursday carrying a total of 1.62 million tonne.

The officials added that about 753 trips involving 363 mail/express trains and 390 passenger trains in the SCER and NR railway zones have been cancelled.

A travel operator in Chhattisgarh, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Hindu that because of the Covid-induced disruption in the past two years, there was a lot of pent-up demand created during summer holidays and several weddings are also scheduled in April and May. Fewer trains means travel plans will either get cancelled or people will be forced to change multiple trains or use other modes of travel.

Similarly, Jonny Krishnani, who runs a mobile shop in the State capital said his family members were scheduled to leave for Jalandhar on April 27 but the situation forced them to abandon the trip. As it turned out the Chhattisgarh Express in which they had reserved their seats was cancelled but later resumed along with a few other trains.

"So eventually the train departed on its scheduled time on May 27 but by then we had cancelled. One can't help feeling shortchanged," said Mr. Krishnani, who was at the Raipur railway station to cancel another ticket on Friday evening.

Apart from the long distance commuters, many daily commuters who come to the bigger cities for work or to find work will also be affected by the suspended services.

As per data shared by Power Ministry, coal production by CIL has increased by 27.2% in April 2022 as compared to same period of last year and coal despatch has increased by 5.8%. The coal stock at CIL is 56.7 Mt and that at Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) is 4.3 MT and at captive coal blocks is about 2.3 MT. “Thus, sufficient coal stock with coal companies is available,” the Ministry said.

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