Suggesting a roadmap for growth
A Committee formed by Indian Railways submitted a document to the Railway Minister pointing out bottlenecks that have hindered its growth. Mohd Jamshed, AM(C&IS), Chairman, Committee on Traffic Optimisation, MoR divulges details about the roadmap would en
Q How did the Committee approximate growth in freight traffic between 9 and 15 per cent despite the growth recorded at four per cent during the last four years?
A Committee was constituted by the Ministry of Railways to identify factors and issues affecting growth of traffic (freight and passenger) and suggest a plan of action for Traffic Optimisation in the short term (during 2015-16) and long term (2018-19). Various segments of growth in freight and passenger traffic were critically examined, that is on the freight side growth of originating loading, NTKMs and freight earnings were discussed.
The Committee made a thorough analysis of traffic patterns and transportation output of Indian Railways for the last few decades, particularly, during the last five years. The Committee assessed the potential traffic demand for rail transportation of various sectors based on the projection given by the core sectors. Projections from coal sector alone indicate increase in coal production from around 750 million tonnes in 2014-15 to 1500 million tonnes by 2020. Assuming that these projections will materialise, this commodity alone should be able to generate coal transportation demand for Indian Railways to more than 1000 million tonnes by 2020. The growth potential of Indian Railways assessed by the Committee for originating freight loading is more than 1500 million tonnes by 2018-19, which is much below the estimates indicated in Indian Railways Vision 2020 document of December 2009.
The Committee has given the caveat that more than nine per cent growth would be achievable only with the removal of short-term and long-term identified bottlenecks and by bringing about recommended system improvements and policy changes. The great leap forward of 15 per cent growth will come only after commissioning of Eastern and Western DFCs by the end of 2019.
Q What are the bottlenecks that have hindered the growth of freight traffic till date?
The Committee has made a realistic examination of the existing bottlenecks on the Zonal Railways that impacts the growth of traffic. These have been categorised as Network Capacity Management, Terminal Capacity Management, Wagon & Loco Management, Pay Load Management and Crew Management. The long-term bottlenecks are identified as wagon augmentation, junction and terminal augmentation, induction of wagon stocks (both public and private sector), availability of locomotives and induction of crew.
Q What changes are required in rolling stock and infrastructure maintenance practices to achieve the potential estimated by Committee?
The recommendations for system improvement are primarily those which carry forward innovative measures already being taken by the Zonal Railways. The recommendations in this regard are two-fold, i.e., meant for policy initiatives by the Ministry of Railways and those to be undertaken at Zonal Railways level. Higher capacity and higher speed wagons have to be inducted in the system on priority, maintenance practices, especially, routine overhaul and periodical overhaul maintenance has to be looked into in the backdrop of limited capacity in the workshops and the examination cycles may have to be extended for longer periods for improving wagon availability and reducing wagon turnaround.
Q How long would it take for the capacity of the existing terminals to be augmented and private freight terminals to come up?
Capacity of the existing terminals is being augmented by power houses, industries and container operators. It has been recommended that development of private freight terminals should be encouraged and the policy should be liberalised. This has also been announced in the Railway Budget by the Minister for Railways.
Q What are the steps suggested by the Committee for liberalisation of Wagon capacity scheme?
Wagon capacity scheme should also be liberalised to enable investments in wagon leasing and induction of wagons. The Committee has suggested induction of wagons through PPP arrangements with PSUs and also from private sector in large number for catering to the demands of traffic in specified circuits.
Q Does Indian Railways plan to make use of satellite services for safety of cargo too?
Indian Railways has to modernise its systems to achieve the desired goals. Use of satellite services for operations, safety and other IT applications has become essential. Satellitebased information could enable automatic capture of train movement, data for automatic control charting, accurate passenger information through NTES, real time information on freight trains, eliminating requirement of track side equipment, train tracking application and even its potential use for in-cab signalling along with its use as an auxiliary collision avoidance system and various other extended benefits. Satellite service would certainly take care of safety of cargo through live tracking. The Committee has recommended that the Indian Railways should move forward in this direction on a proactive basis.
Mohd Jamshed AM(C&IS), Chairman, Committee on Traffic Optimization, Ministry of Railways