Freight movement via rail to be raised 1.6 times: Draft National Rail Plan

According to Yadav, the National Rail Plan aims to create capacity by 2030 which will be ahead of demand till 2050.|Photo: Shutterstock
The Ministry of Railways plans to transport 45 per cent of the country’s freight by 2030, a 1.6 times increase over 27 per cent currently. This is part of the draft National Rail Plan.

After 2030, the Indian Railways aims to have a revenue surplus that would be adequate to finance future investments and also repay debt obligations of past investments.

“Exchequer funding of rail projects would not be required,” the Railways said in a press statement.

So far this year, passenger earnings are down 87 per cent from last year as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted railway services in March, even as freight earnings have increased 8 per cent.

National Rail Plan

The plan also proposes to eliminate waiting lists in passenger trains by running more trains. “We are using artificial intelligence to assess demand and would want to augment rail movement towards meeting this demand,” Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav told reporters on Friday.

“The passenger train movement can be aligned to demand to eliminate waiting lists. We want to ensure that all passengers get confirmed tickets.”

According to Yadav, the Railways aims to create capacity by 2030 which will be ahead of demand till 2050.

“We have to develop capacity beyond demand. This has been the thought behind planning for the last two years. The final draft of the National Rail Plan reflects the same. Comments are invited on it for one month,” he said.

This is the first time that the business plan and the infrastructure development plan of the Railways is jointly planned and developed on a single platform.

“The freight movement in the ecosystem during 2019 was estimated at 4,700 million tonnes (mt). Of this, the Railways ferried 1,210 mt. It is estimated that the freight ecosystem will grow to 6,400 mt by 2026,” Yadav said.

Vision 2024

In addition to the longer-term goals under the plan, there are more immediate targets specified under the Vision 2024. This aims to augment the rail infrastructure to enable loading of 2,024 mt of freight by 2024.

The other goals under Vision 2024 include multi-tracking of 16,373 kilometres, 58 super critical projects (3,750 km), 68 critical projects (6,913 km), and 20 additional coal connectivity projects (2,184 km).

The financing for these projects has been lined up and funds have been allocated by the Railways for work till 2024. The capital expenditure envisaged for this is Rs 2.9 trillion.

Post-Covid scenario

Commenting on the current status of freight movement, which was severely hampered because of Covid-19-induced lockdowns, Yadav said the cumulative freight loading till December 16 this year has reached 97 per cent of previous-year level. Also, there has been an 8 per cent growth in revenue from freight operations.

Responding to queries on when will normalcy return in rail operations, Yadav said, “We are gradually moving towards normalcy in a phased manner, while coordinating with the states, keeping the Covid-19 precautions in place. But giving a definite timeline for all trains to begin operations is not possible at this moment.”

“We are running trains wherever we get the go-ahead from state governments. But things are far from normal, with 30-40 per cent of the 1,089 specials trains that are currently running not seeing a good occupancy rate.”

On the impact of Covid-19 on the revenue position of the Railways, Yadav said, “Going by the current trend, we expect train loading and freight revenue to be more than last year’s. The revenue deficit this year, compared to the last, is at 10 per cent… there is a revenue loss of Rs 9,000 crore till now.”

“The loss we face is on the passenger revenue side, where so far this year, we’ve seen earnings of just Rs 4,600 crore against Rs 53,000 crore last financial year, a drop of 87 per cent.”

He said the Railways expects passenger revenue to climb to Rs 15,000 crore by the end of the year, a muted show compared to last year.

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