Coal shortage: Railways claims it is a last mile problem

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on May 20, 2011 Published on May 20, 2011



Indian Railways has claimed that there is minimal build up of coal at the rail-heads, the exact point from where it transports coal to power plants.

This follows Coal India Ltd's recent statement that there is simply not enough rail capacity in the country to transport coal from pit heads. This, in turn, is affecting the power producing companies .

The Railways, meanwhile, point out that coal lying at pithead cannot be transported by rail. The problem is in last mile connectivity, which is handled by CIL.

“Coal has to be made ‘rail able' (made available at railheads) before the Railways can move it. The last mile distance between Coal India's pithead and rail head could range from 10-40 km. To cover this distance, Coal India appoints road transport firms,” explained a Ministry official.

“Blaming the Railways for transport capacity crunch is not fair when about 47 per cent coal mined by CIL is evacuated using rail mode,” a Ministry official said.

The Railways made available seven per cent more rakes for transporting coal in the first 19 days this May on an average against the same period last year. Each rail rake carries about 3,750 tonnes of coal.

“That the coal stocks at pitheads are piling up is an indication of the rate of evacuation from pithead to the rail head,” said a source. CIL had 70.56 million tonne (mt) of coal stocks lying at pitheads in 2010-11, against 63.54 mt of coal stock in 2009-10.

A short term measure taken by Railways include moving longer trains of empty wagons back to the railheads of coal mines so that more coal can be loaded.


Coal India proposes to build three new rail links having a total length of 350 km to connect its coal fields in the interiors.

This could require an investment of Rs 2,000-3,000 crore depending on the terrain.

The new rail links would connect coal fields in the Ib Valley, North Karanpura and Mand-Raigarh coal fields. These coal mines are in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

For power capacity coming up till the end of the Eleventh Plan period (i.e. till March 2012), a requirement of 90 mt of indigenous coal has been estimated. For FY12, CIL has earmarked just 13 mt for new plants coming up during the period, which pegs the shortfall at around 77 mt.

Coal India maintains the coal lying at the mine pitheads cannot be transported for want of adequate rail rakes. Steps taken to transport this stock to consumption points is expected to partially plug the shortfall.

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Published on May 20, 2011
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