The importance of coal as the single largest traffic item for the Indian Railways is steadily rising.
In 2011-12, the share of coal in the Railways’ total traffic was 47 per cent, increased to 49 per cent in 2012-13 and now projected to rise further to nearly 50 per cent in the current fiscal.
For the current fiscal (2013-14), the Railways has projected a coal throughput of 528.8 million tons (mt) as compared to 496 mt in 2012-13, an increase of 33 mt.
During the same period, its total traffic is projected increase 57 mt to 1,067 mt (1,010 mt).
In other words, the share of coal in the Railways’ total incremental traffic will be close to 58 per cent in 2013-14.
For 2012-13, the coal throughput was originally projected at 485 mt over 456 mt handled in 2011-12 or an increase of 29 mt.
However, the actual increase in 2012-13 was 40 mt. In fact, the entire incremental loading of IR in 2012-13 was on account of coal.
The major coal-loading zonal railways are — South East Central (Bilaspur), East Coast (Bhubaneswar), East Central (Hajipur,Patna) and South Central (Secunderabad). Eastern Railway (Kolkata) and Western Railway (Mumbai) also handle coal, but WR mainly imported coal.
The Railways’ increasing dependence on coal brings into focus another important aspect, namely, not-so-satisfactory growth in the throughputs of other rail-borne commodities.
In 2013-14, iron ore traffic for domestic use, both by steel plants and other industries, is projected to increase six mt to 112 mt (106 mt in 2012-13), iron ore exports 0.29 mt to 5.75 mt (5.46 mt), cement nearly five mt to 110.7 mt (105.8 mt), foodgrains 2.8 mt to 51 mt (48.2 mt), iron and steel 1.4 mt to 36.68 mt (35.28 mt), fertilisers 2.38 mt to 48.3 mt (45.92 mt), raw materials for steel plants 0.96 mt to 16.44 mt (15.58 mt) and petroleum products 0.8 mt to 42.4 mt (41.6 mt). The Railways, therefore, has to turn to Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest coal miner, for achieving the targeted volume of coal traffic in the current fiscal.
Inquiries reveal that CIL has set the offtake (despatch) target at 493 mt (482 mt of production and another 11 mt of stocks liquidation) for the current fiscal as compared to 465 mt of offtake (452 mt production and 13 mt of stock liquidation) in 2012-13.
(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 3, 2013)