Railways to appoint senior officials as key customer managers
Other | Photo Credit: Reuters

As part of the exercise undertaken by the Indian Railways to improve freight revenue, key customer managers will shortly be appointed to cater to large customers such as public sector units, ministries and individual firms, said a top Railway Board official.

The national carrier will be appointing nine key customer managers including five executive directors and four directors to cater to such customers who provide 10-20 million tonnes of traffic each. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had announced this plan in his budget speech earlier this year.

Railways generate three-fifths of its revenue from freight volumes and earned Rs9,777 crore from transporting 100 million tonnes of freight in March. The prominent commodities it transports include coal, food grains, cement, iron ore and fertilizer.

“They will be the nodal officers to look at specific group of people of that commodity. There will be four-five major customers under each officer who will look into their demands, requests and reforms of policies to reduce the level of officers they had to go through earlier,” said Mohammad Jamshed, member traffic, Railway Board, on Wednesday.

This comes in the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance government working towards improving ease of doing business. A case in point being the Indian Railways withdrawing the dual freight policy for transportation of mineral and pellets to boost iron ore exports. As the new policy comes into effect starting Tuesday, freight rates for transportation of iron ore for domestic consumption and exports will be charged equally.

“Dual pricing of iron ore was very complicated,” said Jamshed.

“In the last two years, there was no demand and iron ore exports have come down to just about 2 million tonnes in the last two years…this is 2 million out of 1,100 million tonnes. It was not making sense for traders to ply additional amount that was being levied for export of iron ore,” he added.

The railways had made a slew of announcement to improve its balance sheet. Last month, it decided to withdraw 10% port congestion surcharge and has also decided to withdraw the 15% busy season charge levied on all commodities for two months starting 1 May. Earlier this year, the carrier also reduced the standard parcel size of cement from 1,900 tonnes to around 1,200 tonnes.

Prabhu has also promised to increase the average speed of freight trains to 50km per hour and introduce time-tabled freight trains on a pilot basis.

Experts believe that the right decisions are now being taken.

“There were issues such as not being able to load a full rake, so single rake has been given the opportunity so it can be sent to more than one destination in the end. So we will get some more traffic from the roads as well as multiple customers can be handled by the same rake,” said former Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar.

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