Time-tabled cargo trains and reduced freight charges: reforming the freight sector

Indian Railways transports about 1100 Million tonnes of freight per year. More than two-thirds of the revenue of Indian Railways is generated from the freight sector. As of 2015-16, the revenue of Indian Railways was about Rs 1.80 lakh crore, out of which freight sector accounted for about Rs. 1.11 lakh crore. Indian Railways transports everything from perishable items like milk, fruits, vegetables to minerals, coal and manufactured heavy goods. No doubt, freight sector of Indian Railways plays an extremely crucial role in boosting our economy. Despite being the economic lifeline of the nation, flawed policies in the freight sector have severely affected it.

Indian Railways have been losing out its share of freight to the roadways because of various facts such as expansion of roadways, world class national highways, drop in the prices of diesel and flawed policies by the previous government regarding freight sector. In order to keep the passenger fare same, the freight charges were increased by successive governments. This increased the cost of transportation of goods so much that the freight had started to shift away from railways to roadways, leading to decrease in the rate of freight revenue year after year. Another issue was the neglect of freight trains. There were massive delays of freight trains and it took many days for transportation of goods via railways, due to which more and more goods were transported via roads.

Yesterday in Hyderabad, Shri Suresh Prabhu unveiled a bunch of major reforms in the freight sector, which will benefit the railways in an unprecedented way by increasing revenue generation and growth of the country. For the first time in the history of India, two time-tabled freight trains named “Cargo Express“ were flagged off by Shri Suresh Prabhu. These cargo express trains will run on dedicated time table and will reach the destination on time. This will attract more freight volume as many people had stopped sending their consignments through IR freights since no one knew when their goods will reach the destination. The first such Cargo Express train will run between Nagalapalli and Tughalakabad.

Second such major reform is the rationalisation and reduction of freight charges after many years. Regular increase in freight charges on one hand and declining diesel prices coupled with an excellent network of highways pushed the freights from railways to roadways. Suresh Prabhu said, “We didn”™t focus on the freight sector despite the fact that it accounts for more than two-thirds of our revenue. Because of ignoring it, the share of railways in cargo is on a decline and in coming days, it is a matter of serious concern how the railways will support itself.“ So, a much-needed step to bring down the freight charges has been implemented by the railway minister, which will once again, massively increase the freight volume.

The number of big-bang reforms going on in the freight sector is just mind boggling. Work on five dedicated freight corridors linking major ports and industrial hubs, starting time-tabled cargo express trains, reduction and rationalising the freight charges, upgrading the rolling stock infrastructure to support freight movement and saving energy to reduce operational costs are all being carried out on priority basis, which will go a long way in revolutionizing the freight sector. This will not only help in increasing the revenue of cash-strapped railways; but easy, quick and cheap transportation of goods will also reduce prices of the commodities, increase business, create more jobs and  push the growth of the economy significantly.

Shri Suresh Prabhu also flagged off two passenger trains ““ an intercity express between Gulbarga and Hyderabad, and an express train service between Mumbai LTT and Kazipet, thereby fulfilling long-pending demands of the people of these regions.

Shri Suresh Prabhu, with his vision, hard-work and dedication, has revolutionized the way Indian Railways is working and achieving new people-friendly targets set in the budget on a time bound basis.

Read more about how dedicated freight corridor is one of the biggest reforms and is all set to revolutionize the transport sector in India here: https://postcard.news/suresh-prabhu-invigorating-the-lifeline-of-india-indian-railways/


Kshitij Mohan.


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(The author is a passionate railway enthusiast, whose hobby, passion and love is railways. He keenly follows the developments in the fields of railways all over the world. Currently pursuing his Ph.D. from Germany)