Indian railways have cancelled 42 passenger trains so far to allow coal freight traffic, despite warnings of a coal shortage in the nation.
New Delhi: In the aftermath of a power outage in several regions of the nation, the railways have cancelled 42 passenger trains, causing difficulty to commuters travelling to and from coal-producing states such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand. The coal-producing areas’ South East Central Railway (SECR) division has cancelled 34 passenger trains, while the Northern Railways (NR), which gets coal for several power plants in the north, has cancelled eight trains.
According to the Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) daily coal-stock report, 56 of 165 thermal power plants had 10% or less coal left, with at least 26 having less than 5%. Coal is used to provide 70% of India’s electrical demand. According to official data, some passenger services under the SECR, such as the Bilaspur-Bhopal train, which was suspended on March 28, will now remain suspended until May 3, while the MEMU between Maharashtra’s Gondia and Odisha’s Jharsuguda is cancelled from April 24 to May 23, and the Dongargarh-Raipur MEMU in Chhattisgarh is cancelled from April 11 to May 24.
The Northern Railways has cancelled four mail or express trains and as many passenger services as the SECR has cancelled 22 mail or express trains and 12 passenger trains. Following the cancellations, the railways increased daily coal rake loading to over 400, the most in the preceding five years, according to the statistics. According to railway officials, the national transporter has put in 533 rakes for coal duty every day, 53 more than last year. On Thursday, 427 rakes were loaded with 1.62 million tonnes of coal.
The cancellations sparked large demonstrations in Chhattisgarh, which is part of the SECR division, resulting in Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel meeting with Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who restored roughly six trains. Over the cancellations, state Congress head Mohan Markam staged a protest outside the office of the divisional railway manager of SECR’s Raipur division. People are experiencing inconvenience, according to officials in the know, and the cancellation of trains like the Hatia-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Superfast Express has come as a severe blow to cancer patients who reserve tickets months in advance to travel to Mumbai for treatment.
The railway government has made no formal statement on the suspension or cancellation of services. According to officials, the railways have cancelled 753 journeys in the SCER and NR railway zones, including 363 mail or express trains and 390 passenger trains. The railways have also implemented loading limitations for rails and goods on specified lines to maintain supply transparency.