Eastern Railway (ER) was once the country's major freight loading zonal railway. But not anymore, thanks to the bifurcation that came into force in October 2002. ER lost its major coal loading areas to East Central Railway, which was carved out of ER to create a zonal railway. At present ER suffers from terrible mismatch between the availability of freight and rakes, with the number of empty rakes far exceeding the cargo inducement. This is not surprising. ER serves areas that are major consumption centres with the result on unloading the rakes carrying cement, fertilisers and food-grains to ER from other regions return virtually as empties as little traffic is available for back-loading. A large number of rakes carrying cargo to the North-Eastern region come back as empties. Capping it all, ER is the home to the most number of wagon-manufacturing plants. As a cumulative effect of all this, a large number of empties are sent from ER to various other zonal railways.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 10, 2011)
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