Getting Future Ready: IR performance and expansion plans

IR performance and expansion plans

Indian Railways (IR) has displayed a note­worthy performance in financial year 2021-22. It has achieved milestones in various categories including freight loading, electrification, new line/doubling/gauge conversion, locomotive production, and technology integration for ensuring safety. From freight loading of over 1,400 million tonnes (mt) to electrification of mo­re than 6,300 route km during 2021-22, IR has achieved an all-round growth.

However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, IR’s services came to a halt. The industry had to face a huge loss due to the nationwide lockdo­wn. Several railway services were cancelled and only special trains were operational to eva­cuate labourers from one part of the country to another. General class passenger services were also suspended and only reserved special trains were operational during the pandemic period.

With the Covid-19 situation getting better, IR has resumed all its services. In November 2021, IR restored regular services to the pre-Covid era. More than 1,700 trains were restor­ed with strict Covid protocols in place. Services such as gen­eral class passenger services, cooked meals and e-catering services, and provision of curtains and blankets have also been resumed.

Major achievements of IR

IR for the first time achieved the 1,400 mt frei­ght loading mark in 2021-22. The originating freight loading of IR for 2021-22 stood at 1,418.1 mt (provisional), registering a 15 per cent rise from 1,233.2 mt in 2020-21. The inc­re­mental loading of around 185 mt has been led primarily by coal with 111 mt incremental cargo, followed by cement at 17.2 mt and other goods at 15 mt. This is the highest growth ever in both absolute and percentage terms. In monetary terms, IR earned Rs 1,437.32 billion of gro­ss freight revenue during 2021-22 as ag­ainst Rs 1,241.84 billion during 2020-21. The previous best freight revenue earnings st­­ood at Rs 1,274.3 billion in 2018-19.

According to IR, the approximate number of passengers booked on an originating basis during 2021-22 stood at 3,542.76 million, a rise of more than 175 per cent from 1,287.04 mi­­lli­on in 2020-21. Further, in terms of gro­ss revenue on an originating basis, the cumulati­ve revenue of 2021-22 stood at Rs 388.74 billion as against Rs 153.65 billion. This was a ma­ssive increase of around 153 per cent in ter­ms of gross revenue on originating basis.

The progress on electrification was also im­pressive, with IR recording the highest electrification of 6,366 route km during 2021-22. The previous highest electrification was 6,015 route km during 2020-21. As of March 31, 2022, out of 65,141 route km of the broad gauge network, 52,247 broad gauge route km has been electrified. This accounts for more than 80 per cent of the total broad gauge network.

Besides, 2,904 km of new line/doubling/ gauge conversion was achieved in 2021-22 as compared to 2,361 km in 2020-21. It is around 23 per cent more than that in the previous year. It is also the highest ever commissioning by IR, excluding the dedicated freight corridor.

IR has also recorded the highest ever elect­ric locomotive production and induction of 1,110 locomotives during 2021-22. It witnessed the highest ever scrap sale of Rs 53.16 billion, as compared to Rs 45.71 billion in 2020-21. In ad­dition, the total panel and electronic interlocking of stations was achieved and Kavach was commissioned at 850 route km.

Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) produced 486 locomotives in 2021-22. It is the best ever locomotive production performance by CLW in any financial year. Meanwhile, Ban­aras Locomotive Works (BLW) manufactured a total of 367 locomotives during 2021-22. These locomotives include 31 passenger locomotives (WAP7), 332 freight locomotives (WAG9) and four Mozambique locomotives. In 2021-22, BLW generated a revenue of around Rs 0.06 billion from exported locomotive parts as against Rs 0.01 billion in 2020-21. This is an increase of around 464 per cent over that in the previous year.

National Rail Plan Vision 2030

In order to create a future-ready railway system by 2030, IR has prepared a National Rail Plan (NRP) for India. The plan aims to formulate stra­tegies based on both operational capacities and commercial policy initiatives to increase the sh­are of railways in freight by 45 per cent.

Apart from the formulation of strategies to increase the modal share in freight, the objectives of the plan include a significant reduction in the transit time of freight by increasing the average speed of freight trains to 50 km per hour, identification of new dedicated freight co­­rri­­dors, identification of new high speed rail corridors, assessment of the rolling stock re­quirement for passenger traffic as well as wagon re­quirement for freight, assessment of the total investment in capital required, etc. Another key objective of the plan is to have a sustained in­volvement of the private sector in areas like op­erations and ownership of rolling stock, development of freight and passenger terminals, and development of track infrastructure.

As part of the NRP, Vision 2024 has been laun­ch­ed for accelerated implementation of certain critical projects by 2024. These projects include 100 per cent electrification, multi-tracking of congested routes, upgradation of speed to 160 km per hour on the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes, increase of speed to 130 km per hour on all other Golden Quadrilateral-Gol­den Diagonal (GQ/GD) routes and elimination of all level crossings on all GQ/GD routes.

IR has identified 58 supercritical projects spanning a length of 3,750 km at a cost of Rs 396.63 billion. Further, 68 critical projects spanning a length of 6,913 km worth Rs 757.36 billion have been identified.

The road ahead

The IR network is growing at a healthy rate. In the coming years, the Indian railway market is expected to become the third largest market accounting for around 10 per cent of the global market. The railway market is one of the big­gest employers in the country and is expected to create over a million new job opportunities in the future. IR is also targeting to increase its freight traffic to more than 3 billion tonnes by 2030. It plans to achieve more than 2,000 mt of loading by 2024, up from the current 1,200 mt.