More rakes needed for moving essentials, Rlys to fine freight clients for delay in freeing trains

Ananya Sengupta

New Delhi, Apr 26 (PTI) The Railways has decided to fine its freight clients for “undue delay” in loading and unloading their goods as it wants more rakes to be available for moving essential items across the country during the lockdown period.

The Railways had earlier waived off the two types of charges for such delays -- Demurrage and Wharfage -- for the duration of the lockdown.

Demurrage is levied on freight clients for detention of any rolling stock after the expiry of free time, while Wharfage is for not removing goods from railway premises after the expiry of the free time.

“The problem was that with the absence of these charges, clients are in no hurry to unload because they don't lose money, unlike in normal times. So we have no choice but to levy these charges on them if they do not clear our rakes,” said an official.

'These are needed for transportation of essential items during this crisis,' he said.

Sources said cement and steel customers are major offenders, with delays in both loading and unloading remaining an issue during the lockdown period either owing to the non-availability of labour or the dip in demand for these items due to the pandemic.

'As the Railways needs to continue efficient transportation of essential services, it is critical to load and unload in due time, and make the stock available for next loading, the guidelines regarding free time and penalty charges have been reviewed,' an order from Railway Board issued on Saturday said.

It has been decided that in cases where 'undue delay' in loading or unloading at particular goods sheds is causing interruption in further loading and movement, the relevant authority are permitted to lift the force majeure condition, and instead give the client 18 hours to load or unload their goods, after which they will be charged as earlier.

However, the order says that the defaulters would be given a 24-hour notice before they are charged. The order has also stated that the charges should be applied 'sparingly', as required.

Sources said that because of the slow unloading, goods trains carrying foodgrains and other such essentials are taking about six days to return to their bases, to be reloaded again, which is affecting the smooth movement of products across the country.

Nowadays, the Railways on an average uses 50-60 rakes daily to carry foodgrains alone.

Over the last 30 days, more than 10.9 lakhs wagons were loaded with essential and other important goods and transported across the country.

Of these, about 7 lakhs carried essential commodities such as food grains, salt, sugar, milk, edible oil, onions, fruits and vegetables, petroleum products, coal and fertilizers among others. PTI ASG TIR TIR