Freight legacy of Bengal Nagpur Railway

On May 17, over 100 railway officers, some retired, mostly serving, assembled at the magnificent building of South Eastern Railway on the bank of the Hooghly river in Kolkata. The officers had several things in common: they were all from IRTS (Indian Railway Traffic Service) stream, had served the undivided South Eastern Railway (SER) and some even its predecessor Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) and all of them are emotionally attached to the glorious past of BNR/SER. The oldest among those present was nonagenarian Peter Impett, a 1948 batch officer.

There was a prelude to it. While through the freight information papers on January 21, G.K. Mohanty, Chief Operations Manager (COM) of SER, was pleasantly surprised to note that the previous day, the three zonal railways — SER, East Coast Railway (ECoR) and South East Central Railway (SECR) — each had loaded more than 6,000 eight-wheeler wagons. In other words, these three zonal railways together, all parts of undivided SER, had handled more than 18,000 (8W) wagons, which, he felt, called for celebration. Mohanty called his counterparts, B.K. Joshi in SECR and G.D. Brahma in ECoR and they congratulated each other. All three had served undivided SER.

Blast from the past

From April 1, 2003, two new zonal railways, ECoR with headquarters in Bhubaneswar and SECR ( Bilaspur), came into being. ECoR and SECR were carved out of the areas served by SER, till the previous day. As on March 31, 2003, undivided SER handled a revenue earning freight of 201.6 million tons. After 10 years, SER, ECoR and SECR together handled a little more than 409 mt, comprising 133.41 mt by ECoR, 124.61 mt by SER and 151.57 mt by SECR.

In 1989-90, SER had crossed 100 mt of freight traffic and it took another 13 years to double the figure to reach the level of 201.6 mt in 2002-03. However, the throughput of 409 mt was achieved by SER, ECoR and SECR together in 10 years. The question being asked is: could SER, if it had remained undivided, double the freight throughput in 10 years? Most certainly, was the view of many present at May 17 event. In fact, some felt, SER perhaps could have achieved even more. The single most significant feature of undivided SER’s freight movement was that over 80 per cent of its traffic originated and terminated within its own system.

To many, SER is still known as BNR which was registered as a company in 1887 with the office in London. T.R. Wynne was the Agent and Chief Engineer in India and Robert Miller the Chairman. By the time, Wynne joined the Railway Board as its Chairman in 1905, BNR was already on a firm footing. Wynne became the Director of Indian Railway Companies in 1908, a position he held till 1914. He came back to BNR in 1914 as its Managing Director and continued till 1939. BNR, taken over by the Government in 1944, became SER in 1955. From 1887 to March 31, 2003, BNR, and its successor SER, strode like a colossus in the country’s rail transportation scene. It was the largest freight loading zonal railway, covering seven States and handling the largest volumes of both coal and iron ore. Till 1976-77, the shares of coal and iron ore in SER’s total traffic volume were more or less the same. In fact, the share of coal was slightly less than that of iron ore. The coal share started rising from 1977-78 onward when thrust was laid on open cast mines as a means to boost coal production. After trifurcation, SER became an iron ore centric zonal railway as the major coal loading areas, which were earlier served by it, came under ECoR and SECR.

To its credit

Both BNR and, subsequently, SER had other attributes not known to many. Visakhapatnam port was constructed by BNR between 1927 and 1933 and operated by it till 1935 and again by BNR/SER for 10 years from 1946 to 1956. The Raipur-Vijayanagram line was opened in December 1931 after the construction of the Titlagarh-Theruvelli section, which complemented the movement of port traffic.

BNR/SER also had the distinction of running two top-class hotels, one at Puri and the other at Ranchi, which no other zonal railway can claim to have. Also, a letter from the agent of BNR to Tata Sons, as early as 1916, only confirms that Tisco’s plant at Jamshedpur (then Kalimati) virtually survived on regular transportation of iron ore, coal and other materials to the plant by BNR.

Yet, BNR lost its identity immediately after Independence, when the country’s railway system was reorganised. N. Gopal Swami Iyengar, the then Minister of Railways, brought BNR under Eastern Railway, which was formed in April 1952. However, it was soon felt that BNR must have a separate identity as before. Thus, SER was born in August 1955.

SER has many firsts to its credit and these include introduction of special stock circuit and internal circuit, CC+2,long haul rakes, engine on load, CC rakes and new design wagons, among others.

Dedicated freight corridor set to enhance freight carrying capacity

With India joining the select group of billion plus club in freight movement, the focus has once again shifted on the prestigious Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC). The project will enhance the freight carrying capacity of railways by manifold leading to incremental gains, apart from freeing the existing lines on congestion. RK Gupta, Managing Director of Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India speaks to Pratul Sharma on the progress made by the project.

How is the project going on. New projects being awarded and deadlines for completing these projects?

We will be finalising the contract for 640 km long Rewari (Haryana) to Palanpur (Gujarat) line worth `6,700 crore by the month-end. This will make a significant forward movement in the execution of the DFC and will set us on the course to complete the major infrastructure project by 2017.

Two consortiums — Sojits Corporation with L&T and Mitsui, Ircon and Leighton — are in the fray to bag this contract.

Work has already started on the phase I Khurja-Kanpur line in the Eastern Corridor. It will be completed by March 2017.

The 66-km of Mughal Sarai to Sonngarh (120 km) executed by the Indian Railways is likely to be opened for traffic by March next year.

The project cost of Eastern and Western DFC project is currently estimated at `95,836 crore, including cost of land. Western DFC (1,499 km) is funded by loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency. While part of Eastern DFC, 1,183 km of Ludhiana-Khurja-Dadri-Kanpur-Mughalsarai section is funded by World Bank.

Land acquisition is one of the most contentious issues in the country, for which many projects are being held up. Please tell us about the progress?

We have awarded projects on which 100 per cent land has been acquired. The DFC project requires acquiring land in nine States, covering 2,500 villages which would have affected one lakh people. Till now we have acquired 82 per cent of the land required, which comes to 8,657 hectares out of total 10,666 hectares. Rest of the work is on track, though there are certain pockets of opposition in a few villages in Gujarat where people have gone for litigation. Land acquisition has been the smoothest for this project. Of the total Rs 4,863 crore awarded, Rs 3,200 crore has already been sanctioned.

This comes to Rs 7 crore every day. The proposed bill planned by the Centre will not apply to us, as we are acquiring land under the Railways Act 2008. Each state has a separate committee headed by chief secretary which monitors the process.

Railways want to increase its share of freight loading, how will DFC help?

The DFC will not only decongest the existing lines, which will in turn help in increasing the speed of passenger trains, it will lead to other benefits. The DFC though run almost parallel with the existing lines but will not be used for moving passengers. Its aim is to provide multi-modal system for moving goods.

A separate body is already involved in building industrial corridor along the Western corridor. The Uttar Pradesh government wants to develop urban zone in the state. The Urban Development Ministry is looking after this aspect.

Over 200 locomotives with 9,000 horse power (HP) are being bought from Japan that will run on DFC. The carrying capacity of rakes will increase from the current 300 tonnes to over 12,000 tonnes. Even the length of the train will increase to 1500 meters.

Rly joins billion plus club in freight movement

Railways has entered in the elite group of billion plus club in freight movement with national transporter achieving the loading target of 1,007 million tonnes (MT) by end-March.

As railways transported around 1,010 MT freight against the target of 1,007 MT for 2012-13, it joins billion plus group along with China, Russia and the US.

In March alone, railways carried 99 MT goods as against an average of 80 MT to 85 MT being carried every month. While USA carried 1,380 MT, Russia’s loading was 1,200 MT and China touched 1,100 MT mark in 2012-13.

In 2011-12, railways had marginally failed to achieve the loading target as the national transporter could carry 969.8 MT against the target of 970 MT.

This show railways has registered an incremental loading of 40 million tonnes (4.1% growth) in comparison with last fiscal.

Upbeat with the performance railways minister Pawan Bansal said, “It is really creditable to achieve this significant freight loading despite present economic scenario the world over.”

Under the freight loading strategy, railways focused on enhancing evacuation of coal from Coal India Limited (CIL) sources and during last month on an average 228 rakes/day were loaded from CIL sources.

Railways also transported 39.29 million tonnes of foodgrains on Food Corporation of India’s ( FCI) account in 2012-13 as against 33.71 million tonnes in 2011-12.

“Special effort was made to ensure transport of coal to power houses as the demand started increasing from July 2012. The demand for cement, iron ore and steel loading was also picked up later,” an official said.

Rlys to enter ‘Select Billion Tonnes’ club in freight

Indian Railways will soon enter the “Select Billion Tonne” club in freight movement that hitherto had just three countries — the US, Russia and China.

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said Railways is expecting to reach the loading target of 1007 million tonnes (MT) freight in the current year and set the target of 1047 MT in the next fiscal 2013-14.

“Indian Railways will have to continue to increase transportation capacities in view of the increasing demands of the growing economy,” he said here at a seminar.

He pointed out that apart from being the largest transporter of goods and passengers, Railways have been playing a major role in national integration.

“Railways plays a big role in the more equitable development of regions by linking them to sources of supply of raw material and to the extended national markets for their produce. Thus Indian Railways has been playing an unparallelled role in creating opportunities and fostering development,” the minister added.

As a major transporter of bulk commodities like coal, iron ore, fertiliser, cement, food grains, iron and steel and raw materials to steel plans, railways is meeting the transport demands of the core sectors of economy as well as of farming sectors.

Rail Budget a major push for infrastructure creation

The rail budget has provided a major boost for the growth of infrastructure sectors. The budget has provisions for speeding execution of projects in key industries including power, coal, mining, ports and urban transport. Additionally, the renewed focus by the rail ministry on the much delayed Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFCC) project will help capturing the freight traffic currently locked up in these sectors.

The rail ministry will rope in the private sector and state governments concerned In order to complete the ambitious projects on time. “An investment of upto Rs 9,000 crore is expected under these projects including Rs 3,800 crore for port connectivity projects, Rs 4,000 crore for coal mine connectivity and Rs 800 crore for iron ore mines connectivity improvements,” rail minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said while presenting the budget in Parliament.

He said the private participation will he aided by the “Participative” Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy newly approved by the Union cabinet. Evacuation constraints owing to lack of rail connectivity have acted as a major dampener for fresh investment in power and coal sectors. The rail ministry is currently mulling floating a Special Purpose vehicle (SPV) with miner Coal India Ltd (CIL) and the Chhattisgarh government. The SPV will spend over Rs 4,000 crore in laying a 180-Kilometer line for evacuating coal from Mand Raigarh coalfield in Chhattisgarh.

Bansal said the ministry plans to mobilize over a lakh crore investment in these sectors through PPP mode in the 12th Plan. “Among the focus areas identified are elevated rail corridor, DFCC, redevelopment of stations, power generation and freight terminals,” he said, noting their high capital intensive nature and long gestation periods as concerns. The rail ministry has allocated Rs 1,000 crore each for setting up a land development authority and Indian Railway Station Development Corporation in 2013-14.

The minister also said that DFCCIL, the rail ministry’s arm executing the freight corridor project, has already completed land acquisition for 2,800-Km stretch on the Eastern and the Western arms of the project. He also said that a Rs 3,300 crore contract has been awarded for 343-Km Kanpur-Khurja section and construction contract for 1,500 KM on the two corridors would be awarded by end 2013-14. Additionally, preliminary studies have commenced for four future corridors.

As was expected the ministry’s plan expenditure in DFCC is set for a massive jump from Rs 1,542 crore (Revised Estimate) in the current financial year to Rs 7,124 crore in 2013-14. The rail ministry is already working on a 66-km stretch of the New Karwandiya-Durgawati section of the Sonnagar-Mughalsarai stretch (122 km) of the eastern corridor. It is to be commissioned by December.

Freight Traffic on the Golden Quadrilateral linking the four cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Howrah – and its two diagonals Delhi-Chennai and Mumbai-Howrah – carries more than 55 per cent of revenue earning freight traffic of Indian Railways. The existing routes of Howrah-Delhi on the Eastern Corridor and Mumbai-Delhi on the Western corridor are highly saturated creating the need for dedicated routes.

The project ones commissioned would mark an inflexion point in the 150 year old history of Indian Railways which has so far run only mixed traffic across its network failing to capture high freight movement demand. The corridor would enable freight trains to run at an average speed of over 65 kmph as against 22 kmph currently.Focus back on Dedicated Freight Corridor.

Private freight terminal at Timmapur likely

South Central Railway (SCR) will now introduce private freight terminals (PFTs), a move aimed at improving its participation in the overall transport chain. This rail division, which currently holds the fourth position in freight movement among 16 divisions in the country, hopes to improve its freight figures with this private partnership terminal model.

The SCR has recorded a 13.3 per cent growth in its freight earnings in the April-June period in 2011 compared to its earnings for the corresponding period last year. For the same period, SCR’s freight earnings stood at Rs 1,347 crores, out of its total revenue collection of Rs 1,916 crores. As a whole, the freight earnings constitute approximately 70 per cent of total SCR’s earnings.

Officials on Tuesday said that the first such private terminal at Timmapur is nearing completion and that it would work as a model to attract private investments to such terminals. A second such proposal is also in the pipeline at Nagolepally, officials said. “We have traditionally allowed private players to only handle their own traffic but here they would also be able to handle third party cargo and even collect user charges,” said an official. The revenue generated from PFTs would be shared between SCR and the private player.

“We are opening up huge business potential for the industry, and for railways, it would mean great growth prospects and penetration of freight services,” said Sunil K Agarwal, chief operations manager, South Central Railways, adding that the end customer would also be benefited with novel aspects like door delivery of goods, quality packaging and so on.