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Ports in southern India TN and Kerala hardly contribute to rail traffic says rail official

Hardly two per cent of the freight traffic of the VOC Port at Tuticorin has moved through the railways and when it comes to Cochin port in Kerala the state which has extensive railway network the port originating traffic is abysmally low at 0.1 per cent while most of the ports in southern India barring Karaikal depend almost entirely on road transport to evacuate and to bring in cargo.

Disclosing this at a conference on last mile connectivity posing a challenge to Chennai Exim trade organized by Confederation of Indian Industries Southern Railway General manager R K Kulshrestha said the originating traffic offered by the ports in Tamil Nadu and Kerala was 2.36 million tons during the last financial year as against the overall traffic of 71.82 million tons handled by the Southern Railway.

The highest per cent of rail bound traffic is from the Karaikal port in Central Tamil Nadu is from Karaikal port with a rail coefficient of 56 per cent. The rail coefficient from other major ports need improvement, the top official of the railway told the conference attended by top representatives of the EXIM trade in Chennai last week.

Excerpts from his speech delivered at CII: last week

 The Freight traffic in other parts of the country contributes to two-thirds of Indian Railways’ revenue of which the major chunk is contributed by eight commodities such as coal, Iron ore, steel, fertilizers and raw materials for steel plants etc.  As far as Southern Railway is concerned, during the year 2017-18 up to November, we have done a freight loading of 18.032 Million Tonnes comprising Coal, Cement, Fertilizers, food grains, POL, Containers, Automobiles etc.

 In the wake of Global slowdown, transportation sector suffered major setbacks which cast its spell on Railway’s freight earnings too.   Despite these challenges, Indian Railways has done well to improve its freight loading.  With the improvement in freight loading, everybody will be a winner, be it Railways, be it consumer or be it the whole ecosystem. 

Indian Railways has set a target to triple its freight traffic from the current 1.1.billion tonne by 2030. Towards this direction, last year Indian Railways devised a business plan incorporating various strategic measures to address the requirements of freight customers by adopting a market-oriented approach. Ministry of Railways has also been constantly refining the existing freight policies and rationalizing them in consultation with all stakeholders with a view to attract more freight to Railways.

Railways have also been providing incentives to encourage and attract freight movement by rail by offering  Station to station rates for commodities like Cement, Clinker, Iron & Steel, Gypsum & Copper Slag, Entered into Long term tariff contract, Freight Concession for booking to North Eastern States, Incentive Scheme for Freight Forwarders etc. Infact this year we have started bi-weekly timetabled container train in association with Container Corporation between Tondiarpet and Tughlakabad and we have already run timetabled freight train for automobile traffic too.

Impetus is given to electrification as electrified tracks are energy-efficient, eco-friendly promoting speedy movement of goods besides saving carbon foot print also.  In Southern Railway, we have completed the Electrification in Chervattur to Mangaluru during March 2017 and  work is completed in Erode – Tiruchirapalli section and will be commissioned shortly and in Karur – Dindigul the work is in progress and likely to be commissioned during March 2018.  Out of total 7254 Kms, we have electrified 6556 kms i.e. 94% and the balance 6% also will be completed in due course.

 Southern Railway has also taken various steps to augment its loading.  In order to achieve reduction of terminal detentions, the capacity for placement in various terminals is being augmented, so as to ensure quicker loading and unloading.

Out of the 104 freight terminals, 91 are already capable of handling full rakes; out of the 13 remaining, works are in progress at 3 terminals for making them full rake capable. Of the remaining 10 terminals, augmentation to full rake capacity is not considered due to reasons like insignificant traffic, land constraints etc.,

In addition, 3 new freight terminals have been identified and being processed under various projects.

Out of 58 sidings in the electrified territory, 43 are already electrified and wiring is in progress in another 5 sidings.

Southern Railway have also taken numerous measures to facilitate freight movement, which are First Common User Rail Auto hub at Walajahbad near Chennai, Facilitating movement of pet coke, iron ore, door to door service in association with Container Corporation and movement of Tractors and Power tillers to North.  We have also recently opened Chavadipalayam Goods shed near Erode and also reopened Pettaivaytalai for handling goods traffic.  These are expected to increase share of freight.

      We have also put our best efforts for seamless hassle free delivery by tracking freight train movements digitally through a well developed Freight Operations Information System (FOIS) database.  We have also introduced e -payment system for making transactions easy and formed a dedicated freight marketing team which addresses  customers’ individual concern.

Southern Railway has the record loading of 2.745 Million Tonnes of freight of the season in December 2018, a clear outcome of continuous Customer Development Programmes taken by the Railways.

As for  Last mile connectivity challenges, the Southern Railway is  serving to 7 ports of which 4 are in Tamil Nadu, 2 in Kerala and 1 in Karnataka.  Apart from these 7 ports, 2 more ports are also coming up, one at Vizhinjam in Kerala and the other at Kolachal  and Enayam in Tamil Nadu.

            In the year 2017-18 the originating loading of Southern Railway was 32.5 MT and unloading was 39.32 MT with the overall handling of 71.82 MT  of which the originating traffic offered by Port was 2.36 MT and terminating traffic was 24.58 MT.  The highest percentage of rail bound traffic is from Karaikkal Port with a rail co-efficient of 56 per cent. However, the rail co-efficient from others ports requires improvement.  The rail-road share for the year 2016-17 in respect of other ports namely Kamarajar Port is 21%, Chennai Port is 14%, New Mangaluru Port is 13%, Thoothukudi Port is 2 per cent, Cochin Port is only 0.01%.

These 7 ports are at present well connected with the existing railway network.  There are no capacity constraints as of now for the evacuation of cargo from these ports.  I would like to point out that in fact, these Ports are offering lesser traffic to Railways as the existing Railway capacity is being under-utilized.  Despite the fact that movement of cargo by Railway improves efficiency, bulk transportation, lesser land utilization, environment friendly and above all cost effective, the offering by trade of Port traffic is very less compared to other modes. Last Mile Connectivity, is providing rail link to the Port from the nearest main line of Railways to facilitate transport of cargo by end user (Port).

Last Mile connectivity ensures; systematized cargo handling, safe storage, quicker turn round of ships, prevention of loss and pilferage, cost effective transport network for large scale evacuation of port traffic, just-in- time delivery due to seamless movement, eases road congestion, reduced road accidents and pollution free transportation.  Railway rolling stock is also compatible for mechanised loading and unloading activities.

Kamarajar Port  is well connected to the Chennai-Gudur Main Line which is having Double Line section with electrification at Attipattu and Attipattu Pudunagar stations on the Double Line section.  As part of Port-connectivity Project, Third and Fourth Line work is in progress between Attipattu to Chennai Beach and the targeted date of completion of this line is March 2018.

Chennai Port is also well connected to Chennai-Gudur Main Line and to Chennai-Arakkonam Main line.  The third and fourth line work as part of Port Connectivity project is in progress and the targeted date of completion is March 2018.

Karaikkal Port is well connected to the nearest serving station of Nagore which is part of Karaikkal – Tiruvarur Main Line single line section. Doubling between Golden Rock and Thanjavur is in progress. Electrification of the section is also under progress as part of Tiruchchirappalli – Nagapattinam – Karaikkal Electrification Project. The expected date commissioning is March 2018.

Tuticorin Port is connected to the Tuticorin – Madurai Main Line in a single line section with electrification.  The Doubling of this section has been sanctioned recently and will be inaugurated soon.  Likewise, Milavittan-Melamarudur new line has also been sanctioned and land acquisition is under process.  It will likely to be completed before December 2018 which will give fillip to rail traffic.

Cochin Port is connected to Shoranur – Trivandrum Main Line in a double line section with electrification.  The part section between Cochin Port  to  Ernakulam is a non-electrified section due to the prevalence of Air Force Airbase.

Mangalore Port is well connected to south coastal Kerala with a double line section (except Jokatte- Mangalore Jn for which work is under progress) and towards Konkan Rail Corporation with a single line. 

Kochi International Container Transhipment Terminal at Vallarpadam is the first in the country to operate in a special economic zone has been handling an average of 40,000 TEUs per month consistently and providing customers with world-class facilities and service, he added.

Indian Railways network is providing the exceptional Last Mile Connectivity to all the Ports served in Southern Railway and it is the Traders who should come forward for optimum utilization of the facilities and any hurdles if you face may kindly be brought to the knowledge of southern railway administration and we are ready to sort out any issue for a seamless service at all times.

To commission the last mile connectivity projects in Major Ports to improve their handling capacity and efficiency, an SPV namely Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL) was formed in the year 2015 under the Administrative Control of Shipping Ministry to undertake last mile connectivity projects in major ports with an initial paid up capital of Rs.100 crores.

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