The Indian Railways spent around Rs 150 crore over the last four months repairing over 2,000 damaged wagons to expedite coal movement to power plants, according to officials.
This comes at a time when India is facing an acute shortage of power. On April 28, India faced a shortage of 192.1 million units of power as peak demand reached a new all-time high of 204.6 GW. On average, India’s thermal power plants had less than eight days worth of coal stock on Thursday against the norm of 24 days.
According to railway ministry data around 9,982 such wagons were listed as damaged in January, which reduced to 7,803 by May 2, with the Railways managing to repair 2,179 wagons in time for the coal demand to peak in the country.
“The cost of repairing these wagons ranges between Rs 5-10 lakh each. Private contractors used by power plants began substituting manual unloading with JCBs. JCBs hit the interior of the wagons and damage them severely. While earlier, this unloading was done manually, now, its being done through JCBs which have resulted in a significant increase in the number of wagons that are damaged,” a ministry official said.
According to the data, 9,982 wagons were shown as damaged as on January 1, the number increased to 10,687 by January 6. On February 11, it was 7,267 and rose to 7,803 as on May 2, data shows.
According to officials aware of the development, due to depleting stocks at the coal fields, the turnover time of wagons waiting for coal loading has increased from seven days to around 15-20 days. Railways has also increased the operating duration of rakes by 2,500km, giving them more running time.