Logistics

Car movement by rail yet to catch up

Mamuni Das | Updated on October 09, 2011

Increasing the number of cars that can be carried in a train will be profitable both to car manufacturers and to the Railways.   -  PTI



With the Railways' share of passenger car transportation in India hovering much below five per cent levels, various stakeholders are eyeing the market. They include Indian Railways, container train operators and wagon manufacturers. Some 2.9 million cars were sold from Indian factories in the domestic and export market in 2010-11 — all of them involve an inland transport element before being delivered to customers. So, a large share of these cars — particularly those that are transported for more than 600-700 km — could be moved by road or rail.

“But only three per cent of cars in India were transported by rail. Compare this with the US market, where more than 40 per cent of car movement happens by the railway mode,” says Mr Naresh Kumar, a former Indian Railways official, involved in wagon design.

It all boils down to increasing the number of cars that could be carried in a train to make the business proposition attractive to car manufacturers and to Railways. Till date, Railways has resisted from investing heavily in special auto wagons because it feared the traffic availability. Also, it gets more revenues from heavy cargo, such as coal.

But, this is changing. The Railway Ministry firmed up an automobile freight train operator (AFTO) policy in mid-2010 to attract private investments in this area, which isn't yet operational due to various reasons.

Indian Railways (IR) does move cars in some specially-designed wagons, only because no other player is permitted to run these wagons. Also, some container train operators — who are allowed by the Indian Railways to transport goods in containers only on flat wagons — are also transporting cars in specially-designed containers.

ADANI LOGISTICS

Adani Logistics, the container train transportation arm of Adani Group, uses specially-designed containers to move A-Star cars from Suzuki's Gurgaon plant to Mundra Port. These A-Star cars are then exported. Shipping lines (NYK, K-line, etc), with whom Maruti has tied up, pick them up from the port.

“The capacity is five cars per container, or 225 A-star cars per train. We move approximately 4000-5000 A-Stars per month from Suzuki's Gurgaon factory to Mundra Port through our inland container depot at Patli,” Mr Umesh S. Bhanot, Vice-President, (Marketing and Business Development), Adani Logistics, told Business Line.

In 2007-08, and the winter of 2010, Adani had used a mix of inland rail transportation up to Mundra and coastal shipping (Mundra to Cochin) to move cars. But this hasn't yet been feasible business — on account of rate fluctuation in ocean shipping (coastal shipping) side and non-availability of cargo on return sector (Cochin-Mundra).

CONCOR

Container Corporation of India (Concor) has also recently forayed into car transportation through its joint venture with NYK. “We have got specially-designed containers for a rake that can carry six cars per container — or approximately 240 cars per train,” Mr Anil Kumar Gupta, Managing Director, Concor, told Business Line.

At present, Concor carries approximately 4-5 such containers in its regular container trains, three times a week. “We moved nearly 100 cars last month. We will gear up based on the need,” Mr Gupta said.

IR's POLICY

The Railways uses New Modified Goods (NMG) rakes to move cars. The NMG rakes have a capacity of five cars per redesigned coach, or approximately 125 cars a rake. Each train comprises 22-23 coaches. Railways also uses Bi-Level Auto-car Carrier - Modified (BCACM)-type rakes with a capacity of 268 small cars (Suzuki's A-Stars) per rake.

Railways issued an AFTO policy in mid-2010 allowing private players to invest in specially-designed wagons to move automobiles. This isn't yet operational because, till date, there is no concession agreement.

But auto wagons are likely to be the way forward. “The capacity per train can be increased in a specially-designed auto wagon only,” says Mr Naresh Kumar, who has conceptualised a double-deck auto wagon that can fit in 472 cars per rake in the current dimensions permitted by Indian Railways.

Wagon manufacturers such as Texmaco, Titagarh Wagons are also closely watching the space. But for more action in this space, Railways first needs to make the policy attractive for investors.

Published on October 09, 2011

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