It is not generating enough container traffic

A career railwayman for over three-and-a-half decades, Rakesh Misra, General Manager - Southern Railway, spoke to Business Line on issues related to the zonal railway. Misra was in Udagamandalam to address the Indian Railways Fan Club’s (IRFCA) ninth annual convention.

How much additional freight load did Southern Railway handle over last year?

It was 10 per cent more than last year (30.99 million tonnes for nine months of FY 14 versus 27.83 million tonnes for the same period in FY13).

Freight earnings for this period were ₹2,016.14 crore, an increase of ₹165.43 crore, or 8.9 per cent, over last year.

Passenger traffic has remained at last year’s levels and higher revenue is due to the rise in fare.

The growth is 18.5 per cent for nine months of FY14 over last year — an increase of ₹434.64 crore in earnings to ₹2,781.15 crore.

We added 85 km of new lines by commissioning the Salem-Karur section. Further, 67 km of gauge conversion was completed between Virudhunagar-Manamadurai, and 24 km of doubling works are slated for commissioning before March, 2014.

What are you doing to get more load from ports?

Originating load for us is essentially coal. We haul from Tuticorin, Karaikal and Ennore and supply to power projects such as the Mettur dam.

The Udupi Power project is served by the Mangalore port by us. Though there is a lot of freight traffic, the revenue generated is not much as the distance covered is very low (below 100 km).

Cement and fertiliser loads have been less this year due to seasonal effects. Though monsoon was better than last year, it was still not adequate. This has a bearing on the earnings of the Madurai division, as consumption of fertilizer depends on monsoon.

What is the off-take in container cargo rakes?

Karaikal and Tuticorin are doing quite well. However, Vallarpadam is a sad story. It is not generating any traffic.

I have met a lot of people, including shipping ministry officials, to find a solution to this issue. [The 8.86 km railway line connecting the international container trans-shipment terminal at Vallarpadam (Kochi) in Kerala was built by the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd at a cost of ₹350 crore.

This includes India’s longest railway bridge of 4.62 km between Edapally and Vallarpadam].

Many important stations such as Arakonam do not have high-level platforms for 24 coach trains causing inconvenience to passengers. How are you addressing this?

We do intend to provide high-level platforms for 24-coach trains at important stations. However, funds for passenger amenities are tight.

Even at Arakonam there is a rail level platform and one does not have to alight on ballast. We have also provided lifts and escalators at major stations. Madurai has six.

How many trains are yet to be introduced from last year’s budget?

Five are yet to be introduced and would be done by February-end.

(This article was published on February 23, 2014)
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