With heat waves across multiple cities in the country, there has been an increased electricity consumption in the last couple of weeks. As a result, the Railways is sweating to transport rakes of coal to power plants across the nation. As much as 16 on the mail/express routes have been cancelled daily in the last couple of weeks to ensure that the tracks are available for trains carrying coal rakes.
The average daily loading of coal rakes has also been increased to 400, highest in the last 5 years. Each rake carries around 3,500 tonnes of coal to meet the shooting demand at the power stations. According to the Ministry of Railways, the drill is to continue for atleast 2 more months, to provide sufficient stock of coal to power plants. This is because the period of July-August is when the coal mining is minimum due to rains and a large part of the domestic coal demand is met from the Eastern region, flowing towards other directions.
While a ministry official said that they’re aware of the protests against the cancellation of trains, he also said there isn’t much that can be done about it as the priority is to supply coal to power plants across nation to ensure there are no blackouts.
Last year, railways loaded around 347 rakes per day, which has increased to 400-405 rakes this year with the temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celcius in multiple cities, increasing the power consumption.
Coal reserves at India’s power plants have declined almost 17% since the start of this month and are barely a third of the required levels. The record breaking summer has put extra pressure on Indian Railways for transportation of coal, which is used for generating about 70% of India’s electricity. There have also been reports of industrial activity being shut down due to power shortage in some areas, which is again, a threat to the economic recovery of the country.
The Railways has taken several steps to increase the loading and transport of coal including running of long-haul trains on both the and dedicated freight corridor networks, intense monitoring of detention of all coal rakes at loading and unloading points and also of their movement by senior functionaries. In case of asset failure on coal routes, the railways has made it mandatory for senior officers to rush to the site for restoration of defects ‘on priority’.