For decades, Coal India Ltd (CIL) officials blamed the Railways for not laying a key rail link in Jharkhand that could help unlock the country’s richest coal reserves. The UPA government had initiated the work in 2005, but the progress remained in paper.
The Narendra Modi government gave it a push. The 44-km Tori-Shivpur electrified double-line was completed more than a year ago, at roughly ₹1,500 crore, to facilitate two mega mines — Magadh and Amrapali — which can together produce up to 100 million tonnes (mt) of coal. But the coal is not moving.
Barely half-a-dozen or fewer rakes, capable of moving 6-7 mt annually, are despatched everyday via this line. This is because state-owned CIL’s subsidiary Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL) failed to ensure the construction of the necessary rapid loading system, which includes a U-shaped loop line connecting the mine head and two mechanised loaders.
What a rapid loader does
The rapid loader ensures that a rake never stops. It branches out of the main track, loaded through silo-operations in 90 minutes flat, and reaches the main track through the loop to head for its destination.
Constructing a rapid loading system encircling barely 20 km of a coalfield might look easier than constructing the Tori-Shivpur rail line that crosses at least half-a-dozen major bridges; but it didn’t happen. A CCL official said the construction was held up for want of forest clearance. According to users, even the 22-km road connecting the railhead with the mine is in bad shape.
A Railway official confirmed that the line is grossly underutilised. According to a 2018 Railway Ministry communique, CIL made a proposal to despatch 80 rakes a day through this line.