The Comptroller and Auditor General’s criticism of the Railways’ inability to maintain a separate timetable for goods trains is learnt to have found place in an audit report on the punctuality of passenger and goods trains. The report will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament during the second half of the Budget session.

A senior Railway official told BusinessLine that though there have been attempts by the Railways to keep a timetable for goods trains at least in some zones, lack of of such a system in most of the zones has adversely impacted the punctuality of all trains. When the bulk of Railways’ revenue is from the freight traffic inability to keep a timeline has created hurdles in Railways’ business growth in freight segment, the official added.

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In 2016, the Railways Ministry told Parliament that it has introduced time tabled goods container train on June 15, 2016 and time tabled automobile trains on July 12, 2016. The time tabled container goods, according to an answer laid in the Rajya Sabha by the Ministry, are running between Okhla (Delhi) and Whitefield (Bengaluru) and Okhla (Delhi) and Tondiarpet (Chennai) in both the directions. The time tabled automobile trains are running between Gurgaon (Haryana) and Nidvanda (Karnataka) and Kathuwas (Rajasthan) and Melpakkam (Tamil Nadu) in both the directions.

“Such a service was started so that customers can send their goods/parcels from the station as per their convenience. But now, there is an increased scope for such system as the e-commerce platforms are also using Railway platforms. A proper timetable will also help MSMEs too,” the official said, adding that the Ministry will discuss the CAG’s criticism and will take proper steps to launch timetables for all zones.

Freight traffic

Bulk of Railways’ revenues are from the freight traffic. ₹1,57,000 crore was the revenue estimate for 2022-23 from freight traffic while the revised estimate of 2021-22 said the Railways revenues from freight would be ₹1,42,575 crore in 2021-22. “Bulk of this revenue is from the transport of coal, minerals and fuels. With proper timetable, Railway freight service can be made attractive for MSMEs too,” the official said. The CAG is learnt to have noted that the delay of trains is also due to the non-maintenance of proper timetable for goods trains.

The Railways said in the Rajya Sabha in 2016 that time tabled freight trains have been introduced on demand and based on feasibility of running them between pairs of stations on an available path.