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`Reclassification of iron ore, excess wagon loading will benefit zonal railways'

Santanu Sanyal

Kolkata , Nov. 5

TWO recent decisions of the Railway Board have come as a boon to the zonal railways as these will add to their freight earnings.

First, the board has permitted wagon loading in excess of the normal, particularly during the busy season. Second, the classification of iron ore has been stepped up to 135 from the earlier 125 for wagon loading and to 130 from 120 for rake loading, entailing higher tariff for rail movement of the mineral. This will probably benefit some of the zonal railways such as South Eastern, East Coast, South-East Central and South Central than the others such as Northern or Eastern or Southern which do not handle any iron ore traffic.

"We have started loading additional four tonnes to 62 tonnes in a Box N wagon from November 1," Mr R.R. Bhandari, General Manager of South Eastern Railway, told Business Line here on Friday.

He, however, declined to indicate the extent to which the freight earnings would increase as a result. The loading of 62 tonnes as compared to normal 58 tonnes in a Box N wagon would certainly bring extra money but it was too early to estimate the figure as the busy season had just started, he said. Judged by the present trend, the growth in SER's freight traffic in the current fiscal could be around seven to eight per cent as compared to nine per cent in 2003-04. But then this year's growth would be on a higher base, he added.

The reclassification of iron ore, Mr Bhandari pointed out, would push up the railway tariff of iron ore to anything between Rs 25 and Rs 60 per tonne depending on the distance to be covered. South Eastern Railway handles around 3.3 million tonnes of iron ore every month — 1.6 million tonnes for integrated steel plants, another one million tonnes for mini steel plants and other smaller units and about 0.7 million tonnes for exports through Haldia dock and Paradip port.

The reclassification of iron ore, he felt, was a step in the right direction for the Railways. "Everybody, except the Railways, had been making money from the sudden jump in iron ore exports and the present decision would correct the situation in our favour," he observed.

"The traders signed export contracts right and left without caring to bother if the Railways had the capacity to transport the huge additional volumes from the mines to the ports," he observed, pointing out the various constraints such as limited growth of the wagon fleet, the detention of wagons at the loading as well as unloading points and bottlenecks in line capacity under which the Railways functioned.

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`Reclassification of iron ore, excess wagon loading will benefit zonal railways'

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