Indian Railways is grappling with the problem of damaged wagons that is not only affecting its normal operations but also leading to delay in coal supplies. To manage the crisis the Railways has spent more than Rs 150 crore in repairing around 2000 damaged and dilapidated wagons over the last four months to augment coal movement to power plants, official data has revealed.
According to data, around 9982 wagons were listed as damaged in January, which reduced to 7803 by April 2. Railways managed to repair 2179 wagons in time for the coal demand to peak in the country.
Indian Railways has cancelled at least 42 trains for ferrying coal rakes in the wake of a power crisis in various parts of the country.
Officials said that it costs Railways around Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh to repair each wagon. Sources indicate that damage to wagons has become a cause of concern for the ministry since private contractors used by power plants to unload coal began substituting manual unloading with JCBs.
“JCBs hit the interior of the wagons and damage them severely. While earlier this unloading was done manually, now, it is being done through JCBs which have resulted in a significant increase in the number of wagons that are damaged. We are repairing them at a fast pace and using the resources for coal,” an official said.
Official figures show that the extent of such damage can be seen in January itself, when 9982 wagons were shown as damaged as on January 1, the number increased to 10,687 by January 6.
On January 11, the number of damaged wagons was 9839, on January 21, it was 9097. It came down to 7267 on February 11 and rose to 7531 as on May 2, official data shows.
Railway Officials said that the Railways has also set up five new repair sites for the repair of such wagons.
With the power crisis and the pressure of transporting coal at a fast pace, the Railways has pushed to make repairs to ensure that thesupply of coal to power plants is not affected.
However, at a meeting with senior officials recently to take stock of the situation, officials of zones likes ECOR, ECR, WCR, SECR have highlighted issues with the movement of coal to power plants.
Sources say that due to the lack of stock available with the coal fields, the turnover time of wagons waiting for coal loading has increased from seven days to around 15-20 days.
The situation, sources say is such that the Railways is even put into action around 40-50 damaged wagons in operation to move coal. A coal train usually get up to 84 wagons.
Officials also said that to expedite the movement of coal rakes, the Railways has also increased the operating duration of rakes by 2,500 km. This means that the rakes which were earlier treated for wear and tear after every 7,500 km are now sent to the garage after 10,000 km, giving them more running time.
Official data says that the national transporter has increased its average daily loading of coal rakes (freight train) to over 400 per day, which is the highest in the past five years. This has however, resulted in cancellation and delays in passenger trains