Mumbai traffic, Railway earnings: What weekly indicators tell about economy

While freight quantity had entered positive territory earlier, earnings had previously been lower than 2019.
The Indian Railways began to make more money by ferrying goods than it had in 2019, and congestion rose in Mumbai roads: these were weekly indicators that showed gains as the economy continued with another phase of unlocking.

The third phase of unlocking began this month. The country has been gradually opening up after locking down in March to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic activity ground to a halt with the shutdown, but has now begun to slowly come back. A lot of official indicators like trade data and gross domestic product appear monthly or quarterly. Business Standard tracks higher frequency indicators like railway data in a bid to get a more current picture of the economy ahead of such data releases. Analysts across countries have been similarly tracking various indicators to get a sense of the economic situation on the ground.  All indicators are as of Sunday, except Google data which appears with a lag.

Indian Railways data shows that it carried more goods and earned more money from freight for the week ending August 16, than the same period last year (see chart 1). While freight quantity had entered positive territory earlier, earnings had previously been lower than 2019.


Power generation data as of Sunday showed that electricity generation is back to the same level it was in 2019. It had fallen by nearly 30 per cent during the worst of the lockdown. Industries and offices had shut down, cutting down the need for electricity (see chart 2).


Search engine Google uses location data to categorise people’s movements. Data as of August 11 shows that workplace visits have come back to around 70 per cent of what is seen during normal times. Visits to parks, retail, and recreation spots are under 50 per cent (see chart 3). There are restrictions on recreational activities.


Traffic data from location technology firm TomTom International shows Mumbai’s traffic has gained. There is a ten percentage point difference over the previous week. Congestion levels are at half of the normal levels as of August 16. New Delhi traffic congestion is at 68 per cent of normal levels (see chart 4).

Business Standard also tracks nitrogen dioxide emissions. The pollutant is the result of industrial activity and vehicular movement. Levels are higher in Delhi than Mumbai, shows data as of Sunday. Mumbai numbers, as measured by Bandra locality data, are low compared to 2019 (see chart 5,6).

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