Economy

Rail cargo gallops as economy chugs along

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Indian Railways carried 8.7% more freight in January from a year earlier, underscoring a sustained rebound in economic activity after the turbulence caused by the pandemic last year.

The national transporter loaded 119.79 million tonnes (mt) of cargo during the month. Earnings from freight grew 5.9% from a year earlier in January to 11,838.36 crore, showed government data issued on Tuesday.

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Freight loading and revenue began recovering from last August after a sharp drop in the June quarter because of strict curbs placed during the nationwide lockdown. The railways is trying to grow its freight revenue by simplifying policies, rationalizing rates and increasing the speed of goods trains, besides creating separate business development units.

“Indian Railways’ freight loading for the last few months has crossed last year’s loading and earnings for the same period. It is expected that cumulative freight loading will surpass last year’s freight loading figures,” the railway ministry said in a statement.

On a sequential basis, freight loading in January increased 1.3%, but earnings grew just 0.3%. However, on a cumulative basis, railways has yet to reach the levels of FY20. Freight loading in the first nine months of the fiscal declined 1% from a year ago to 990.31 mt, and revenue shrunk 7.19% to 94,931 crore. According to Union budget estimates, the railways has pegged freight revenue at 1.24 trillion this fiscal. In FY22, it aims to earn 1.38 trillion, growing 11% compared to this year’s target.

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