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Amid shortage, railways repairs old wagons for faster coal transportation

ByNeha Tripathi, New Delhi
May 03, 2022 04:39 AM IST

The Indian Railways has repaired 2,179 damaged wagons to carry more coal from mines to power plants at a cost of ₹150 crore, officials said.

The Indian Railways has repaired 2,179 damaged wagons to carry more coal from mines to power plants at a cost of 150 crore, officials said, even as an unusually hot summer has led to unprecedented demand for electricity that has seen authorities scrambling to build coal inventory at energy utilities to prevent outages.

Coal being loaded in good train amid a power crisis due to shortage of coal, at Rai Coal mines in Piparwar on Friday. (ANI)
Coal being loaded in good train amid a power crisis due to shortage of coal, at Rai Coal mines in Piparwar on Friday. (ANI)

Also Read | Railways looks to expedite coal transport amid shortage

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“With the power crisis and the pressure of transporting coal faster, Indian Railways is continuously working to speed up wagon repairs so that supply of coal to power plants is not affected,” an official of the national transporter said on condition of anonymity. “We have set up five new facilities to repair damaged wagons.”

Summer set in early this year in India, and March was the hottest on record. The high temperatures are expected to continue through May, the weather bureau has predicted. Peak power demand was a record 191,216 MW on Sunday, and the shortfall was 207 MW. Coal-fired plants are the mainstay of electricity generation in the country and plants have been short on inventory, leading to a crisis.

Also Read | Coal shortage: Production up by 23.2%; only non-priority trains cancelled

Damage to coal wagons has become a cause of concern for the railways ever since private contractors hired by power plants started unloading coal using JCBs. This was earlier done manually.

Around 5 lakh to 10 lakh are spent to repair a coal wagon. “JCBs hit the interior of the wagons, causing serious damage, resulting in a significant increase in the number of damaged wagons,” the official said.

Railways has so far cancelled 42 passengers trains to make way for coal rakes in the wake of the power crisis. It has increased its average daily loading of coal carrying cargo trains to over 400 everyday, which is the highest in the past five years. A rake has up to 84 wagons.

Also Read | Power crisis: 42 trains cancelled to allow coal movement

Around 9,982 wagons to carry coal were listed as damaged in January 1, which has been reduced to 7,803 on May 2, official data show.

The railways have been holding meetings with all operating zones to take stock of the situation. “ Officials of zones like east coast, east central, west central, and south east central have highlighted issues with the movement of coal to power plants,” an official who was present at the meetings said, declining to be named.

“Due to the shortage of coal stock availability, the turnover time of wagons waiting for coal loading has increased from one week to around 15 days,” he said. “However, to deal with such circumstances and hasten coal movement, we are utilizing around 50 of our damaged wagons as well.”

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