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Railway Ministry panel suggests railways provide ‘Transit Guarantee’ for all container freight

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NEW DELHI : As the railway ministry sets an ambitious target to increase the freight loading to 3,000 million tonnes (MTs) by 2027, more than double of what it achieved in 2021-22, a high powered panel set up by the ministry has suggested the railways offer “Transit Guarantee” services for all container freight trains, based on a committed average speed linked with the lead between origin and destination points.

It has recommended the railways to allow for up to 10% variation from commitment for container freight movement, and also offer 2% freight rebate when the commitment is not met. It has suggested more focus on container cargo, which has witnessed nearly 7% compound annual growth rate in the past few years.

The 10-member committee on “Mission 3000 MT” — all from the railway board — has submitted the report to the railway ministry recommending the actions required to achieve this target. In 2021-22, the national transporter recorded loading of 1,418 MT freight and that was the highest ever.

According to the report, the ministry needs to take several steps including the investment of Rs 8.45 lakh crore in infrastructure and rolling stock over the next five years and adding new products to its freight basket.

The report has flagged that in the absence of assured transit time, there is a need to offer “Freight Express” service which will enable modal shift from road to rail by improving asset turnaround and thereby reducing cost. It has given a roadmap for improving asset utilisation, turnaround time of rakes and how to reduce the idling of rakes.

The panel has pointed out that the railway pricing works in the favour of heavy cargo because of which those who operate light cargo containers are at a disadvantage and such cargo tends to move on road. “Certain commodities are still restricted for transportation by rail in containers despite having demand. This is a hindrance which restricts containerisation of commodities and has an effect on the growth of overall container volume,” it has said.

The committee has recommended the railways to start a web-portal — Small Freight Aggregation Platform — to aggregate demand of small consignments. It has also highlighted the need to have more proliferation of end-to-end third party insurance on the lines being provided by the postal department.

The report comes at a time when the Indian Railways has set the target to achieve 40-45% of modal share of freight by 2030 against the current level of around 27%-28%.

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