Indian railway network is Asia’s largest and world’s fourth largest system. It has a tradition of competence built
over the last 125 years There has been a continuous modernising of the track, locomotives, signalling equipment and
other devices for monitoring and control. Railways in India are, at present, the largest agency in freight transportation in terms of the tonnage-miles. However, over the years the percentage of freight traffic handled by road has steadily increased. Railways are ideally suited for long distance-over 500 kilometres freight transportation within the country.
Movement of heavy materials such as coal, steel, raw materials, ores, etc., are most economically handled by Railways. As a national organisation, Railways have certain social obligations. Thus, they give priority to movement of foodgrains, coal, raw materials and finish products for steel
plants and so on. They have therefore evolved a freight structure which will ensure subsidised transportation of these essential commodities. “The freight rate structure of Indian railways is the lowest in the world as they have to be based on social obligations and not on economic considerations.” This has made possible a shift in freight traffic to road, particularly in the case of high rated commodities. It is imperative for the materials manager to avail of the various need-based transport packages that have been developed by railways, which are discussed below:
Quick transport service- A scheme has been introduced to overcome the consumers’ apprehension about undue delay in the transport of goods by introducing a guaranteed Quick Transit Service on payment of a small surcharge which is refundable in case consignments do not reach their destination within the target time. The service so far has been introduced on the main trunk routes connecting most of the big commercial centres. This is a continuing process and more and more commercial centres are being
connected through this service.
Container service-To compete with the door-to-door service of road transport, particularly for smalls and high-rated commodities, the Railways introduced a scheme of road-cum-rail transport in containers of five tonnes capacity, ensuring door-to-door delivery as catered for by road transport. Here, again, the service is relatively on a small scale covering only a very few commercial centres and is
being progressively extended to other commercial centres. Freight forwarder scheme-One of the biggest disadvantages with the consumer desirous of transporting
smalls by rail has been his apprehension regarding the wagons loaded with smalls being re-packed at the various goods sheds. This has been a necessity, as the wagon loaded with smalls does not necessarily have all goods for the same destination. The freight forwarder scheme involves a collection agency which ensures that a single wagon is loaded with smalls of various consumers for a single destination,thus eliminating en-route re-packing, with possible loss and damage. This scheme again is on a small scale and is being
developed Recently, a scheme has been introduced by the Railways for collection of smalls from specified points through Mobile Booking Service.
Parcel expresses- Introduction of an increased number of parcel expresses for quicker transport of perishables and other consignments by freight rates in coaching vans is receiving the constant attention of the Railways. In View of the international energy crisis and the rise in the price of petroleum products, there is a need to save petroleum-based products on a long term basis. It is important to recognise here that 88 per cent of the total consumption of
high speed diesel Oil in the country is accounted for by the transportation sector. The consumption of railways is as low as 12 per cent. The productivity of HSD oil on rail transport is said to be nearly six times that of road transport.
competition between rail and road transport so that each Therefore at a national level there is a need to avoid wastecan concentrate on traffic for which it is best suited.