As Indian Railways seeks to attract more cargo from the roads and increase its share in the total domestic-freight movement, it is considering innovations in hardware such as tweaked containers, onboarding aggregators who can put together trainloads of cargo from small and mid-sized businesses, and deepening engagement with India Post’s network of post offices.
First, specially designed containers of small size, and international-standard sized containers with higher carrying-capacity are being inducted, to help the national transporter attract goods such as two-wheelers, fast-moving consumer durables, and fly-ash, reckons the maker of such boxes. On... more...
a recent occasion, when Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stopped by at the factory of the firm that has designed these smaller boxes, he remarked that these small boxes will help small businesses.
Later, closely inspecting another avatar of the specially designed boxes for Indian conditions, stacked in threes at a container terminal along the Western dedicated freight corridor, Vaishnaw christened these tweaked boxes as Gati Shakti. Through this act, the minister linked the boxes to the government’s larger Gati Shakti vision, which includes digitisation, fast-tracking of infrastructure projects and bringing down the cost of logistics in India.
During the visit, the Minister was bullish on the business prospect of such small boxes, stating they could bring extra cargo load of hundreds of million tonnes for railways translating to revenue of tens of thousands of crore, according to an official.
The history of Gati-Shakti boxes
The small containers are designed by Kalyani Cast Tech, a New Delhi-based company floated by Naresh Kumar, a former Indian Railways officer. The company started making these containers in
Six of these boxes can fit into a train wagon, which otherwise can carry only one international standard container of forty feet unit (FEU) or two twenty feet unit (TEU) boxes, Kumar, director, Kalyani Cast Tech, told Moneycontrol.
For the uninitiated, globally, there are two standard-sized containers to carry cargo across countries-–TEU and FEU. Both have a gross load carrying capacity of about 30.5 tonne, which nets off to 27.5 tonne cargo payload, after subtracting the weight of container itself (3 tonne).
Currently, India has two box manufacturers – Hindustan Vacuum Glass (erstwhile DCM Shriram-Hyundai JV) and Kalyani Cast Tech. Till some years back, there were three-four more players, but they could not compete with cheaper boxes made in China and went out of business, pointed out an industry source.
The potential of these specially designed small boxes can be gauged from this instance—they can carry 40 per cent more two wheelers per train compared to what railways move in their wagons – lowering the cost of transportation for two-wheelers. Kalyani Cast Tech, which has seen interest in the smaller box from two-wheeler manufacturers, expects to start making these small boxes soon for a company that specialises in rail-based automobile transportation.
All technical approvals are in place, said Kumar, adding that he is hoping for further clarity on charges from the Railways.
Kumar has another tweaked container–in one of the standard international sizes, but with 22 per cent more load-bearing capacity--that will enable moving flyash on the rail tracks. These strengthened containers (TEU size) will have a load-bearing capacity of 33.5 tonne instead of 27 tonne, said Kumar. He has already received an order to make 270 such containers from a newer container train operating firm that now transports fly-ash using the roads.
This new box can help Railways earn 10 per cent more revenue per trip, due to the higher weight-carrying capacity, estimated Kumar.
Kalyani Cast Tech, which has its factory in Rewari and manufactures six containers a day, is on an expansion mode, already having acquired land. “In the next four months, we will start making 15-20 containers a day,” informed Kumar, claiming that the company is already the single-largest container manufacturer in the country.
Coming back to the small boxes, these allow companies to book one-sixth of a container space, with their goods safely ensconced in the smaller, Gati Shakti box.
Currently, small businesses are unable to take full advantage of low-cost rail-transportation, since most often the businesses either have to book larger containers than needed or share a container with goods of other players. Sharing the container may mean exposing their goods before their destination points, multiple times.
Smaller Gati Shakti boxes also fit into small, pick-up trucks, so that they can travel into cities through the day. Large trucks have time limits placed on them in many cities. This is not to say that Gati Shakti boxes cannot be transported in standard large trucks, because they can be. Wherever required, upto six of these small boxes can fit onto a large truck.
With these small Gati-Shakti containers, customers can save on real-estate costs since they needn’t book a covered terminal space, and on handling costs since the boxes can be lifted with cheaper equipment such as forklifts instead of reach-stackers. A forklift costs about Rs 8 lakh while a reach stacker costs about Rs 2.25 crore.
That said, bringing in innovations to the stubborn, globally standardised container market has proved challenging.
Intermodal boxes may fit into Indian Railways’ strategy to bring forth a solution to lower the logistics cost for small businesses and people in remote places, who do not benefit from the lower charges levied by Railways. “We are innovating big time in this area, hoping to bring a cogent solution. The innovation will involve process re-engineering, door-to-door services, transparent way of billing or charging, it will go a long way in helping these businesses,” Vaishnaw said, speaking at a CII conference recently.
To take benefits of low-cost rail-transport to more small and mid-sized businesses in the country, Railways has also been thinking of onboarding more cargo aggregators.
“One thinking within the Railways is to have aggregators put together smaller chunks of goods, collecting enough load from fragmented small and mid-sized players to book a sizable share of a train,” said a second railways official.
Interestingly, the forces unleashed by the pandemic are shifting cargo transport trends globally. For instance, post pandemic, the US market saw e-commerce retailers using more of railroads and a rise in intermodal (container) usage of trains, according to a Northwestern University Transportation Centre report. This habit inculcated during the pandemic is proving to be lasting, as the trucking sector in the US battles labour shortage.
In India too, Indian Railways has in the recent past, tried to woo e-commerce players such as Amazon, Flipkart and other retailers. After the pandemic struck, Amazon also rode the parcel trains of Indian Railways in 2020. These were separate from the parcel trains (bit like covered passenger coaches) of Indian Railways -- and not intermodal boxes.
Indian Railways is also exploring whether its older, high-capacity passenger carrying coaches which are now past their expiry date can be repurposed for carrying parcel cargo.
While the role of humble international standard-sized container in aiding world trade is well documented, its use in railways for freight movement is almost marginal. Only five per cent of cargo by weight in railways is ferried in containers. The lion’s share is carried in different types of wagons. That’s also because of the type of stuff Railways is used to carrying—steel, coal, iron, fertiliser among others.
As railways vie to grab a bigger share of finished goods such as FMCGs and consumer durables, use of containers will become more crucial, reckons a container train executive.
Railways’ deepening ties with India Post
Indian Railways is planning to rollout an innovative solution in the cargo space by the third quarter of 2022, and post offices and postmen will be a large part of that service and shifting the cargo to railways, said Ashwini Vaishnaw in a forum, a few days back.
More than any of his predecessors, Vaishnaw is uniquely positioned to deepen this relationship between Indian Railways and India Post in the cargo space as besides being the minister of railways, he is also the minister of telecommunication, and as part of that portfolio, he heads the government’s postal network. Another predecessor who had tried exploring synergies in these two spaces was Manoj Sinha.
On its part, India Post, with its country wide network has been slowly increasing its scope to service e-commerce cargo. It has set a target to increase its parcel handling capacity to 8 lakh parcels per day from 2 lakh parcels a day, as per its annual report. For transporting and delivering packets and parcels of various sizes, India Post already uses a mix of railway and road network across the country.
However, mapping synergies between two of the world’s largest organisations—Indian Railways and India Post, may prove a game-changer in the space of cargo movement.
In fact, Kalyani Cast Tech, the maker of Gati Shakti box, is in touch with railways and India Post to proliferate the use of its innovative containers.
Containerised cargo — that comprise a small chunk of total cargo for the Indian Railways –have seen good growth this fiscal. In eight months till November this year, Railways has carried 47 million tonne (mt) of containerised cargo showing a 25 per cent higher loading compared to the corresponding period of previous year, according to Indian Railways data.
Indian Railways has decided to extend the operations of Train Number 12009/12010 Mumbai Central – Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express up to Gandhinagar Capital station. Extension of Mumbai Central-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express: Indian Railways has decided to extend the operations of Train Number 12009/12010 Mumbai Central – Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express up to Gandhinagar Capital railway station in Gujarat with effect from 24 December 2021. According to the Railway Ministry, Train Number 12009 Mumbai Central – Gandhinagar Capital Shatabdi Express will depart from Mumbai Central at 6:10 AM and arrive at Gandhinagar Capital at 1:40 PM. While Train Number 12010 Gandhinagar Capital – Mumbai Central Shatabdi Express will depart from Gandhinagar Capital at 2:20 PM and arrive at Mumbai Central at 9:45 PM. Recently,... more...
the Western Railway zone has announced to run a special train between Umargam and Mahesana stations via Gandhinagar Capital daily. According to the zonal railway, Train Number 09471 Umargam – Mahesana Special will depart daily from Umargam railway station at 5:50 AM and the train will reach Mahesana railway station at 2:40 PM, the same day. Similarly, Train Number 09472 Mahesana – Umargam Special will depart daily from Mahesana railway station at 4:30 PM and the train will reach Umargam railway station at 01:30 AM, the next day. Both, these trains will run from 4 January to 16 January 2022. This train, enroute in both directions, will halt at Valsad, Vapi, Surat, Anand, Bharuch, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Nadiad and Gandhinagar Capital railway stations. This train comprises air-conditioned 3-Tier, Second Class and Sleeper Class Seating coaches. The trips of Train Number 02133 Bandra Terminus – Jabalpur Special have been extended as well and now, the train will run from 8 January to 26 March 2022. The train’s halt timings at some intermediate railway stations over the Western Railway zone have been revised. Similarly, the trips of Train Number 02134 Jabalpur – Bandra Terminus Special have been extended and now the train will run from 7 January to 25 March 2022.
Beginning December 25 – Christmas Day – the Kolkata Metro will be running ten additional services every Saturday. With this, as many as 230 daily services—115 up and 115 down services—will be provided to commuters instead of the current 220, reports have said.
From December 27, the Kolkata Metro will be further increasing its services to 276 with 138 up and 138 down services on weekdays, according to reports, in order to cope with the expected rise in footfall over Christmas and New Year's holiday season. ... more...
The reports indicate that the very first Metro trains of the day will start at 7am from Dum Dum to Dakshineshwar, from Kabi Subhas to Dakshineshwar, Dum Dum to Kabi Subhas, and from Dakshineshwar to Kavi Subhas.
The last train of the day will be leaving from Dakshineshwar towards Kabi Subhas at 9:18pm, while the last metro rails from Dum Dum to Kabi Subhas and from Dakshineshwar to Kabi Subhas will both leave at 9:30pm.
Additionally, the Kolkata Metro will be operating four extra ticket counters at the Park Street stop, a popular destination for Christmas celebrations in the city, which remains jam-packed from December 24 to January 1.
The Metro stations in Kolkata which experience the highest football during the holiday season are Esplanade, Maidan, Park Street, and Rabindra Sadan, among others. The administration has decided to deploy additional security personnel of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) from 11am on Christmas Day to ensure the smooth passage of commuters and control the crowd.
The Indian Railways is set to launch a new weekly Humsafar Superfast train from Rajasthan to Tamil Nadu via Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Maharashtra. The Humsafar train from Rajasthan’s Ajmer to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu is slated to begin from December 18. The first train returning from Rameshwaram will leave on December 21. As per Western Railways’ spokesperson, train number 20973, Ajmer- Rameswaram Weekly Humsafar Superfast Express will run every Saturday at 8:10 PM from December 18 onwards. The train will reach Rameshwaram on Mondays at 9 PM. Similarly, train number 20974, Rameshwaram- Ajmer Humsafar will start operation from December 21 and will run every Tuesday at 10:30 PM. Completing its two-day journey, the train will reach Ajmer on Thursdays... more...
at 11:30 PM. En route, the train will stop at the Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Neemach, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Fathebad, Chandravatiganj, Laxmibai Nagar, Dewas Jn., Maksi Jn., Bhopal, Itarsi, Betul, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Ballarshah, Barangal, Vijayawada Jn., Nellore, Gudur Jn. , Chennai Egmore, Changalpattu Jn., Villupuram Jn., Aluva, Thrissurapally Jn. and Manmadhuri Junctions. The decision to introduce new trains from Rajasthan comes after the railways announced the resumption of regular operation after over one-and-a-half years. The regular operation remained suspended since the announcement of the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. As the lockdown opened up, railways resumed operation but with several restrictions. During this period, many regular trains remained suspended and special trains were running. The decision marked the return of 1700 regular trains. The railways also allowed the service of cooked meals on the train which remained suspended due to COVID-19 precautions. The railways served packed meals on trains. However, a recent review showed there were not too many takers of these food items, and that the passengers preferred having cooked food. The review showed that only 7 to 10 passengers purchased ready meals whereas 40 to 70 per cent preferred cooked meals.
Delhi. All the zones of Indian Railways are continuously working to equip all the rail routes under them with electrification on which trains are operated with diesel fuel. Along with this, different zones of the railways are also working to double their rail routes in a phased manner which is single track. Due to this the movement of trains is also getting affected. North Western Railway (NWR) is also working to double the railway section on Jodhpur division. Due to this, rail traffic will be affected for the next few days and trains will also be partially cancelled. Doubling work is to be done between Merta Road- Degana railway section of Jodhpur division. Because of this non-interlocking block is being taken. The following train services are being partially canceled due to this block:- These... more...
trains will be partially canceled1. Train No. 22421, Jodhpur-Delhi Sarai daily train service will remain canceled between Jodhpur-Degana from 14.12.21 to 25.12.21 (12 trips). 2. Train No. 22422, Delhi Sarai – Jodhpur daily train service will remain canceled between Degana-Jodhpur from 13.12.21 to 24.12.21 (12 trips).