Railways has carried more than 54, 000 tonnes of consignments through parcel trains during the Lockdown period and earned more than INR 19 crore.

Since the onset of the nationwide lockdown, the transportation of essential commodities and other goods have been a matter of great concern. Immediately amid the implementation of the lockdown thousands of truck drivers abandoned their fleet on the very first day due to the police clampdown in the state borders and closing of eateries on the highways. 

Taking a cue from this, the railways were prompted to restart the parcel cargo trains or the parcel vans. The parcel vans typically carry small quantities of parcels that are usually moved via the highways.   

Till April 5, 2020, as many as 27 routes were notified by Indian Railways, out of which 17 routes were regular scheduled services, while the rest of the routes were only for a single trip. Some of the busier routes included New Delhi-Gauhati, New Delhi-Mumbai, New Delhi-Kalyan, New Delhi-Howrah, Chandigarh-Jaipur and Moga-Chhangsari routes.

The nationwide lockdown has led to the suspension of passenger trains and the demand for regular freight trains carrying bulk goods, like steel, cement and coal, slowing down due to closure of factories across India. This has led to the new short parcel trains ruling the railway tracks network. 

Lifeline for essentials

The flock of parcel trains have emerged as the trusted transporters at times of the pandemic. Parcel vans during the lockdown have been carrying dairy products, e-commerce consignments, packaged food, seeds, medicines and perishables across the country. Further, it has made parcel vans available for quick mass transportation for e-Commerce companies and other customers including State governments.

The parcel special trains which are run on time-table, on selected routes, to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential items till date have transported a total of 54,292 tonnes of essentials for the national transporter. And, the transportation of consignments of essentials since the beginning of lockdown has fetched the Indian Railways nearly INR 20 Crores. The zonal railways are also regularly identifying and notifying newer routes for the parcel special trains. Western Railways is operating 124 Covid-19 special parcel trains run for transportation of essential commodities.

Railways with the help of the special parcel trains aim to build regular connectivity between major cities of the country, viz Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Parcel trains might also ensure connectivity to the North-eastern part of the country, increase connectivity from state-capitals/important cities to all parts of the state and supply essentials from producing regions to other parts of the country. 

The total number of trains run till 5th of May is 2,067, out of which 1,988 have been time-tabled trains. 54,292 Tonnes of consignments have been loaded. On 5th of May itself, 66 special parcel trains were run out of which 65 were time-tabled trains. 1,936 Tonnes of material was loaded.

Earlier, Railways informed that, during the lockdown period, goods train have registered 66% increase in speed, with many zones even registering double the speed from the same period last year, as the threat of coronavirus keeps the passenger trains off the rail network, decongesting its routes. 

Considering the perks of the parcel trains, Railways are likely to continue the operations of these parcel trains even during normalcy.  

An official said, “We have introduced parcel trains with fixed timetables as a quick response to the lockdown. We are likely to continue some of those trains even after normalcy is restored.”

Furthermore, the two dedicated freight corridors which are coming up will shift the freight traffic to these routes and support the railways to increase the speed of passenger trains and enhance average speed of freight trains even after the pandemic ends.