Under pressure from the government to optimise coal supply to power plants, the cash-strapped Railways has quietly turned around its record in transporting coal leading to a 14 per cent increase in coal-based power production this year.
The national carrier will touch a record 200 rakes of coal a day to plants. It has already touched the 199 mark. By stepping up the carrying capacity to match with the 10.7 per cent increase in coal supplied to Railways by Coal India Limited, it has apparently made breathing easy for around 22 power plants that were earlier termed “critical” and “super critical”.
The Centre has been pulling up both the coal mining sector and the power sectors for less-than satisfactory output this year.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been directing the various organisations to make sure that power production does not remain off target.
The blame, however, has often been on the railways for its “failure” to carry coal adequately and promptly.
But since November with the railways has been managing its rolling stock to clock 175 rakes per day from the usual average of around 157. In fact, Coal India’s pit-head stock (lower the better) has now decreased from 70 million tonne in April to 43 million tonne in November, a 40 per cent fall.
This has increased the earnings of railways at a time when it is hard-pressed for money. Its earnings from coal is up by 13 per cent although its overall net-tonne-km is lagging behind target.
However, officials hopeful of achieving the target in the last fiscal quarter.
Earlier this year, the PM stepped in to ensure that Coal India Limited entered into fuel supply agreements with power producers so that the country’s infrastructure sector is not affected.
One of the major reasons cited by the coal giant is the inability of Railways to carry coal to power plants on time.