GUWAHATI, July 23 - Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said it has undertaken certain steps to boost freight traffic at a time when the prevailing pandemic situation along with the annual floods have created many logistical problems in this region.
"The focus is on adopting measures to improve transportation of freight traffic. This is very crucial at this time of pandemic when places like the North East, which are located very far from the major industrial and economic hubs, need to be kept regularly supplied with essential commodities. Also, the monsoon season is a challenging period in this part of the country, with road networks at times getting snapped due to rising water levels. As part of the new initiatives, our zone has now opened up additional stations for goods traffic," a senior NFR official said.
Three stations - Hojai and Kamalajari in Assam, besides Ambasa in Tripura - were recently opened for freight booking.
"The decision to allow booking of both inward and outward bound goods traffic from these three stations has proved to be a very positive step. These stations are also handling special parcel trains now, besides regular freight services. Transportation of essential commodities to and from nearby areas of these stations have now become easier. This has also helped our zone improve its customer interface. Local traders and businessmen are now able to bring and book items through these stations," said the official.
Sources said the decision of the Indian Railways to introduce some relaxations in freight transportation and to offer several incentives have helped the NFR zone ramp up its goods traffic.
It is noteworthy that during the days of the initial lockdown phase, the railways had made some relaxations in schemes for customers who want to book less than the standard length rakes or who want to book rakes originating at two points or having two different destinations.
Levy of demurrage, wharfage and other ancillary charges had been suspended in case of goods and parcel traffic. Besides, detention charge and ground usage charge were also been done away with for container traffic.
"All these measures have resulted in a major boost to freight traffic. Besides, our zone was able to transport over 2,000 tonnes of materials by special COVID parcel trains originating from stations like Guwahati, New Guwahati, Tinsukia and Dimapur. This played a crucial role in facilitating availability of essential commodities for people of this region," said an official.
Meanwhile, loading and un-loading activities of freight carrying trains in the areas falling under NFR have shown improvement in recent days.
"Loading of food grains during July up to July 16 this year is more than the corresponding period of last year. Till July 16, the total loading of food grains was 0.094 million tonnes, which is about 50 per cent more than the figure of 0.062 million tonnes reported during the corresponding period of last year. This increase signals towards a revival of normal activities pertaining to local economy. The total loading figures considering all types of freight is also picking up gradually," Subhanan Chanda, chief public relations officer (CPRO) of NFR, said.
As part of the initiative to increase freight loading, NFR had recently set up business development units (BDUs) at its Maligaon headquarters here as well as in all the five divisions of the zone. These BDUs are holding discussions with traders, merchants, local entrepreneurs and logistic suppliers to have a better understanding of their needs so that the railways can provide required facilities to keep the local economy moving.
"The actual outcome and benefits of such discussions are expected within short time in the form of new goods traffic," Chanda said. He said NFR has also taken up various development works for betterment of facilities in all the goods sheds.
"During June, a total of 826 freight-loaded rakes were unloaded in our zone as compared to 771 rakes during the corresponding month of last year," Chanda added.