The Indian Railways Cancelling Passenger Trains to Accommodate Coal Rakes is Unprecedented!

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  • It looks like the global community will not be spared from the challenges being thrown at them from diverse sources one after the other. Right from the moment the pandemic hit the universe, the common man is relentlessly subjected to debilitating tribulations making life miserable. The Indian context offers a unique perspective even as the pandemic-induced economic shocks are yet to be conquered. Also, it appears that mother nature to has made up her mind to punish the Indian population who are in the midst of extremely hot summer months with no respite in sight in the immediate future. The sweltering heat engulfing the entire country, especially north, has reached record levels rendering the citizens literally seeking divine relief.

PC: JBS

  • Alas, if only all our fervent prayers were answered favorably. Since the demand for power usage has gone up tremendously over the last few weeks, the lack of commensurate supply of coal in the largely thermal-based power generation has adversely affected the smooth availability of energy. Across the country, many states are already resorting to official and unofficial power shutdowns to ration the provisioning of power to keep the industries and domestic users functioning at sub-optimal levels. As you are aware, the majority of the coal supply is undertaken by the Indian Railways through its freight services reaching out to the nook and corners of the country. To further augment the rising demand for coal rakes, the Indian Railways had to step in sooner.
  • Now, what measure did the Indian Railways adopt to supplement the efforts of making available coal rakes to consumers? In its wisdom, the higherups running the IR have announced the cancellation of nearly 670 trips of passenger trains till May 24 to focus on moving coal to thermal power plants. Forced to choose between massive power outages on account of coal shortage and inconveniencing passengers, IR appears to have taken a tough call. The moot point to ponder over here is did IR have to be faced with this choice in the first place. The answer is a resounding no. The shortage of railway rakes for transporting coal is on account of poor planning as the current situation is not unexpected.

PC: Business Today Desk

  • There were plenty of signs pointing to a surge in domestic coal demand, but IR missed them big time. Mind you, transporting coal to thermal plants is the most important part of IR’s freight operations making up about 18% of its goods traffic. Obviously, IR vastly underestimated the requirements for 2021-22. At a time when the finance ministry was forecasting a ‘V-shaped recovery in the economy, IR got its calculations wrong. IR over the last few years has seen an increase in investment, with rolling stock taking up the largest chunk of capital expenditure. However, the nub of the matter is that IR has fallen short on planning and forecasts giving the impression that different arms of GOI are working in silos. That won’t do.