The Indian Railways would want to maintain the higher speed of freight trains attained during 2020 in 2021 as well. According to the Ministry of Railways, freight trains moved twice as fast in 2020, averaging at over 45 kilometres per hour (kmph) in December 2020. This could be attributed to lesser movement of passenger trains amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a media interaction to highlight the achievements of the Indian Railways during 2020, Chairman Railway Board, V K Yadav said, “The speed of freight trains in 2020 was almost double from last year (2019). We are planning and making arrangements to maintain this speed when we start running passenger trains at normalcy.”
India currently has 13,523 passenger trains and 9,146 freight trains that ply regularly. But passenger train movement was practically halted from March 2020 to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Focus was instead shifted to running special trains aimed at helping people go back to their homes. This allowed freight trains more priority space on railway tracks.
According to a Rail Ministry presentation, the average speed of a goods train stood at 23.6 kmph in 2019-2020 and rose to 42.9 kmph in 2020-2021. Speedier freight trains also resulted in more loading of goods.
Freight loading increased by 9 per cent in November 2020 and rose to 109.68 million tonnes, up from 100.96 million tonnes in November 2019. The Indian Railways expects this to further increase to 119 million tonnes in December 2020, even higher than 108 million tonnes in December 2019.
The enhanced freight movement rested on induction of New Wagons being increased by 22 per cent (12649 to 15447) and starting of automobile transport to export to Bangladesh through New Modified Goods (NMG) Rakes. The Indian Railways also removed a 5 per cent supplementary charge on two-point combination and mini rake. In addition to these, there were some concessions that were also extended to coal, iron ore and finished steel freight movement.
Early completion of some Dedicated Freight Corridors planned
These goals of running speedier goods trains also rely on early completion of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC) in 2021. These are expected to decongest the existing Indian Railway network and increase the average speed of goods trains from existing 25 kmph to 70 kmph. The commissioning timelines of the Khurja-Dadri and Rewari-Dadri have been moved up by a quarter.
According to the Rail Ministry, an additional 481 km will be commissioned by March 2021 taking the cumulative to stretch of DFCs to 1138 km (stood at 657 km in November 2020).
The freight corridors will also allow running of Heavy Haul trains (higher axle load of 25/32.5 Tonne) and overall load of 13,000 Tonne, facilitate the running of longer (1.5km) and double stack container trains. It is expected that by December 2021, Kanpur-Khurja Area of Uttar Pradesh will get connected to the Kandla, Mundra & Pipapav ports of Western India through the Khurja-Rewari rail link.
|Dedicated Freight Corridors||Progress||Original target||Revised target|
|Khurja-Dadri (46 Km)||53%||June 2021||March 2021|
|Rewari-Dadri (127 Km)||57%||March 2022||December 2021|
|Madar-Palanpur (335 Km)||82%||March 2021|
|Palanpur-Makarpura (308 Km)||52%||March 2022|
|Makarpura-JNPT (430 Km)||41%||June 2022|
|Khurja – Sahnewal (401 Km)||39%||June 2022|
|Bhaupur-DDU (402 Km)||61%||180 km by December 2021 & 222 km by June 2022|
|DDU-Sonnagar (137 Km)||59%||100 km by March 2021|
Source: Ministry of Railways