Indian Railways freight volumes contract for the first time since the pandemic

For the first time after the pandemic, the year-on-year freight volumes for the national transporter have contracted, shows the data for June released by the Ministry of Railways.

The Railways ferried 123 million tonnes (mt) of goods last month, almost 2 percent less than in June 2022. Before this railway freight volumes had been witnessing YoY growth for the past 36 months, after they drastically declined between March 2020 and July 2020 amid Covid-19 restrictions. The data reveals a 0.95% decline in the earnings from freight operations in June also to INR 13,316 crore.

A poor growth in cargo handling for June was reported by the state-owned ports which came close to the first decline in 16 months. According to provisional data by the Indian Ports Association, cargo traffic at 12 major ports of the country was a little over 66 mt last month, registering a YoY growth of 0.7 percent.

An earlier statement by the association reportedly said that cargo traffic in June had declined for the first time since January 2022.

The reduced loading in Railways was primarily on account of thermal coal, the mainstay of its freight operations. It ferried 47 million tonnes (mt) of thermal coal in the last month, 4.11 mt less than in June last year.

As per officials, the demand for coal has been much lower this financial year because of subdued power demand following unseasonal rainfall in April and May. Also last year, challenges in planning coal logistics led to the cancellation of over 1,000 passenger train trips in a bid to transport more coal and avert a coal crisis; this, in turn, resulted in accelerated freight loading.

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