While the economy continues to suffer due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the economic slowdown that preceded it, Indian Railways have performed remarkably well during this period. Apart from completing a large number of long-pending projects taking the benefit of the absence of regular trains, the railways have improved the performance of freight operations considerably.
This was revealed by Railway Board VK Yadav in a press conference held via video conferencing on 28th July. As the general passenger train services remain suspended due to the Coronavirus lockdown, apart from Shramik Special Trains and Special Passenger Trains, the Railways have focused on improving and optimising freight operations during this period. As a result, the average speed of freight trains nearly doubled in the month of July. The average went up from 23.2 kmph in July 2019 to 45.03 kmph in the same month this year. On 27th July, the average speed was 46.2 kmph, compared to 22.5 kmph on the same date last year. While speeds increased in all the zones, it was highest in the Eastern Zone with 52.52 kmph, and lowest in North-Western zone with 44.62 kmph. As a result of increased speed, the turnaround time for wagons have improved, and more freight could be carried.
The Railways also completed more than 200 infrastructure projects in the last 4 months. Some of these included such projects which could be undertaken earlier as they required blocking the route for long duration, which was not possible due to high traffic. Several bottlenecks on the railway network have been removed with these improvements. Rebuilding/Rehabilitation of 82 bridges were done, 48 Level Crossing Gates were replaced with Limited Height Subway/Road Under Bridge. 16 foot overbridges were built or strengthened, while 14 such old foot overbridges were dismantled.
With the focus on improving freight operations, the Railways loaded more freights this year compared to last year. Indian Railways has also introduced Time Tabled Parcel Trains to improve punctuality and made improvements to Good Shed Facilities in mission mode. The Time Tabled Parcel Trains will be notified for 6 months. Zonal and Divisional Business Development Units have also been established to increase freight traffic. The units will provide single window for customer interface.
In an effort to end-to-end logistic services in parcel business, the Railways will gradually move away from leasing of parcel space in trains – and will introduce on-line booking of parcel space in trains of choice at pre-determined freight rates. This service will be offered on first-come first-serve basis. Suitable railway terminals will be converted to dedicated Parcel terminals to improve parcel services.
Separate terminals for parcels will mean that the parcel traffic will be separated from passenger platforms, and will provide more space for parcel handling. This will be a step in the direction of providing end-to-end logistic services to customers. The Railways is planning to rope in strategic private partners for different goods sheds. 2 EoIs have been already floated to test the scheme.
The Railways is also entering into a tie-up with the Department of Posts to provide end-to-end logistics solutions to parcel customers at 7 over Central Railway. The locations are Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nasik, Akola, Solapur, and Kolhapur. At a later stage, it will be expanded on the pan-India level. The Zonal Railways have been empowered to appoint service agents to provide the first-mile-last-mile service to customers. List of such agencies will be available on-line, and the customers will be able to choose a suitable agency