India’s auto industry is boosting the freight loading of Indian Railways like never before. From Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Hyundai to new entrants like MG Motors and Kia, there is a line-up of auto majors for using the railway rakes.
A sharp setback caused by the national lockdown to battle Covid pandemic saw automobile loading by railways falling to abysmally low level of just 2 rakes in April 2020, but this was soon reversed. The loading increased progressively to 33 rakes in May, 112 rakes in June, 159 rakes in July, 243 rakes in August and 287 rakes in September. The auto loading volume surpassed the year-ago level in July itself and skyrocketed since then. The September level was 120% higher than in the year-ago month.
Of course, the share of automobiles in the railways’ freight volume and revenue is still very low; the transporter relies on bulk commodities like coal, grains, iron ore and cement for much of its freight receipts.
According to the Railway Board, IR’s share for transporting small passenger vehicles has shot up from about 4.5% in FY18 to about 14% in July 2020 and this may increase to 20% by FY22 and 30% by FY24.