The national lockdown prompted by Covid-19, which ate away part of the Indian Railways’ business in March, has shown its full blown impact in April.
In the first 10 days of April this year, when the otherwise busy tracks of Indian Railways were free to move only goods, Railways registered a 36 per cent drop in year-on-year cargo loading, which is an indication of the impact that the national lockdown is having on goods moved by Indian Railways, as per provisional estimates of the Railways.
The total goods earnings of Indian Railways, at ₹1,865 crore, were down 41 per cent, against the same time last year on account of the unprecedented pandemic.
During the first 10 days, the zone that saw the sharpest growth as compared to the same time last year was the Northern Zone - from which foodgrains were lifted for public distribution system - and the North Eastern zone. All other zones loaded lesser cargo against last year.
Indian Railways also started running time-tabled parcel trains (as the passenger trains that carried parcel cargo were stopped) across the country moving milk products, medicines, food items, masks, fruits and vegetables, fish, wheat, oil, among others.
The previous month of March — which bore a seven-day brunt after the lockdown was announced but movement of essential goods was permitted — saw almost a fifth of Indian Railways’ net tonne kilometre (NTKM) shaved off.
Indian Railways hauled 14 per cent lesser cargo in March against the same time last year, according to Indian Railways’ data. The Railways has registered an almost 19 per cent dip in one of its productivity parameter NTKM (net tonne kilometre) in March this year. NTKM measures both the loading and distance over which cargo is moved.
During the month, loading of coal to steel plants, thermal power plants and various other users was down by 24 per cent on a year-on-year basis and raw material for steel plants loading for steel plants was 24 per cent lower. Cement and clinker loading was down 25 per cent. Almost 29 per cent less foograins were loaded in March on a year-on-year basis, fertiliser loading dropped 30 per cent and container movement was down 21 per cent, according to estimates of Indian Railways.