Importance of Freight Operation:

Importance of Freight Operation:

The freight business is the major source of revenue for the Indian Railway. Main activity centers of freight operation include terminals, yards, control office and stations.

I. Broad Classification of Goods Trains:

1. End to End:

Trains, generally run from the train-originating Terminal to the final destination. This is an express stream of freight trains and does not require any stoppage en route, except for crew change.
Such trains will normally include container trains, air braked block rakes for single destination. These trains are planned to run like non-stop Rajdhani trains and may have a fixed timetable and guaranteed transit time. This group may include trains of private freight operators. Other through trains -Are also block rakes or may have two or more destinations on the same or, adjacent section. These may have conventional bogie stock

2. Work Trains, Shunting Trains, Pilots etc.:

These train movements are for short distances for clearance of damaged wagons made fit or for supply/removal of rakes to and from the sidings or important terminals served by a yard.

3. Departmental trains:

These include Material Trains, Track maintenance trains, Ballast trains, Relief Trains, Wiring Special, Crane Specials etc. are known as departmental trains.

II. Complexity of Freight operations:

Freight operation is generally more complex than passenger train operations for the following reasons:

a. The changing pattern and fluctuations in demand for rakes/wagons due to changes in the level of production, changes in the pattern of distribution and changed consumption centers.
b. The variety of commodities to be moved, with different characteristics & type of wagons required
c. Preferential traffic schedules, rationalization schemes other public policy regulations
i) Seasonal variations in demand
ii) Time taken in loading/unloading-whether manual or mechanical
iii) Train examination Systems
• End to End/Intensive Examination
• Premium end to end
• C.C. rake

This in turn results in Sick Wagon detachments & attachment of fit wagons for completing the rake composition.

4. Following is the series of operations for empty rakes being offered for loading:-

• Examination
• Supply/placement
• Loading
• Despatch

5. For inward loaded trains which after placement and release have to be back loaded at the same terminal or at other location, withdrawal from loading points may require an outward examination unless the rake is fit for round trip or for a prescribed distance.

Once the train is fit in all respects and commercial formalities have been complete a set of activities are initiated these include
• Preparation of train documents
• Train ordering,
• Arranging train crew & locomotive
• Monitoring train movement
• Arrival at the destination
This cyclic operation requires constant monitoring and co-ordination.

III. Ordering of Goods Train:

i. Each freight Train is required to be ordered to run under a unique number /name or Train ID for monitoring its movement through intermediate divisions, zones etc as also to facilitate all processes at control offices, yards, C&W depots , station and Crew/Guard booking Lobby Power Controller/Traction Loco Controller.

ii. The message from Divisional Control that a train is scheduled to leave from a Station' or Yard at a certain time, is known as the Train Notice. The message is, in turn further conveyed to all concerned. The availability of suitable (i) Load (ii) Locomotive (iii) Crew/Guard and (iv) Path has to be kept in view for ordering of goods trains.

iii. Co-ordination between the Traffic Controller/and the Power Controller (the shed, if fresh power is required) ; the Yard/Station, C&W staff and the Crew/Guard booking lobby is thus required.

iv. Regular conference with yards, terminals, and the adjoining Division is held by the Control and for exchange of information regarding forecast of trains in yards; completion of loading/unloading at sidings etc. and interchange with adjoining Divisions. This monitoring should be enforced through FOIS so that time of staff spent on phone is reduced and more productive work is done by better planning.

v. Constant monitoring for expediting loading/unloading at major sidings/goods sheds is also done by Control and the Station Staff for ensuring the availability of load.

IV. Planning of Locomotives:

a) Power Plan:

The power plan indicates the daily average number of locos required and planned for freight services section wise for each division. This bare requirement of Locos for Traffic use is calculated on the basis of the traffic turn round and average number of trains run on each section. This represents the average number of locos needed on the Division.

b) Loco Outage and Loco Utilisation:

Loco Outage means the average number of locos available to traffic use in a day (24 hours). Since the Diesel and Electric Locos have long extended runs and may cover many divisions in a day, the position may be maintained graphically for the entire duration (0 to 24 hours) the loco is on line on the Division. Different colour graphic representation on Bar Chart can represent the time spent by each Loco to serve as a good Management Information System e.g. (a) time taken by running train (b) time taken for Crew Changing (c) time for Fuelling (Diesel Locos) (d) time taken for Loco inspection (e) time for repairs on line (f) time for Light Engine running (g) time taken for Shunting (h) time spent at terminal/ destination (i) en-route detention.

Thus, the total hours for which the various Locos were available for Traffic use divided by 24 (number of hours in a day) would give the Loco outage.

Loco outage can be prepared service-wise/shed-wise/railway-wise, traction wise etc. The actual Loco outage should generally be around the target fixed for each Division.

However, it should be appreciated that while the target is based on average, the actual requirement of Locos may fluctuate due to bunching of trains, increase in traffic or due to bottlenecks on account of operational reasons, equipment failure or after effect of interruption to traffic.

c) Control of Operating Department on Loco running :

Electric and Diesel Locos are maintained by the respective loco sheds and locos once turned out of shed are available for utilisation for a number of days till prescribed Maintenance /inspection schedule is due in the shed or the locos require out of course repairs. Thus, while the operating staff has the operational control over utilisation of Loco as well ass flexibility of using the Locos and send the locos to the shed well in time. Overdue running of locos should be avoided by suitably planning the train running. Similarly, all out efforts should be made to send the dead locos or locos requiring attention in the home shed. The hauling capacity of the locos and special restrictions as jointly agreed to by the officers of operations and loco department should also be adhered to.

While operating department has to optimise the work done by each the work done by each Loco i.e. moving maximum traffic with the minimum number of locos by adoption of operational strategies and improving the efficiency, the shed and loco organisation should provide optimum number of locos in good fettle, keeping in view the traffic needs as shortage of locos can dead to transport bottlenecks and inability to move the existing and potential traffic. Along with the availability, reliability, safety and predictability have to be aimed.
Loco failures, loco troubles en-route and ineffective locos should be kept to the bare minimum.

Balancing of locos is also required to be done i.e. Locos without loads may be sent to other Divisions where they are required.
Reduction in terminal detentions and increasing average speed of goods trains would substantially improve engine utilisation.

d) Availability of Engine Crew and Guard:

Running staff for Goods operations are generally booked on the principle of first in and first out; Balancing of Crews/Guards by sending staff spare is also required to be done in case the running of trains is not even in both directions on a section.

e) Availability of path:

Theoretically, on a double line section, a Goods Train can always be run when load, power and crew are available and the next block section is clear. On single line sections dispatching a train out of path, will be counterproductive, due to Mail/Express Blocks, Peak timings of Suburban or Commuter traffic. Readiness of the interchange point of the terminal to accept the trains are to be kept in view before pushing a goods train ahead. It is better to have directional flow if possible.

Master Chart:

Master Charts incorporating all passenger carrying trains and realistic goods train paths are prepared in consultation with Operating Officers, Controllers, Yard Staff, Power Controller, Station Masters of important stations etc. in order to:

i. Find out line capacity of the section.
ii. To highlight the set of suitable paths for guidance of Control, which can
be used for, goods train ordering also.
iii. To prepare tentative goods train time table for selected express stream of

V. Role of Various Agencies in Freight Operation:

Large number of agencies play important role in freight operation. Marshalling Yards, Train Examination, loco motives and lobbies have been discussed else were in this manual. Role of few agencies is discussed below the special reference to freight operations.

Control Office:

The main function of control office is planning, execution and review with all the three activities going on simultaneously.

a. Planning:

Planning is aimed at forecasting and optimising the following :
1. Interchange
2. Trains to be run section wise
3. Supply of rake/for bulk loading
4. Release of inward loaded rake placed for unloading.

Information regarding the following items is generally required for these purposes

a) Analysis of divisional wagon holding
b) Power availability
c) Availability of loads
d) Disposal of empty rakes
e) Demands for loading

The plan is made by control in the yearly hours of morning and reviewed by Operating Officers. Changes in the plan, as deemed necessary are made at various stages on the basis of updated information received from
the activity centers, adjacent divisions and instructions received from the Head Quarters

b. Execution:

The goods operation plan is executed on the basis of actual materialisation of the forecast with suitable adjustment made for short falls/excesses Yards loco sheds stations terminals lobbies & TXR depots are actively involved in execution of the plan.

c) Review:

The trend of the day’s position is reviewed by the CHC and Officers in the afternoon. Detailed review of the previous day’s performance is carried out early in the morning by the operating officers with the following objectives

1. Analysing short falls of previous days to take remedial measures and pin point weak spots
2. Provide data for planning for the current day

The main features of performances which can be reviewed include:

  •  interchange failures
  •  divisional wagon balance (wagons on divisions)
  •  train running
  •  disposition of empties
  •  loading at important terminals – and in the case of short falls reason for the
  • same
  •  reviews of unusual occurrence
  •  examination of control chart
  •  particulars of stable loads
  •  yard performance
  •  unloading on divisions
  •  registration &loading
  •  power position, utilisation of locos and terminal detentions
  •  sick line working
  •  spl type of stock
  •  clearance of piecemeal wagons(sick or otherwise) from road side stations


The divisions freight operations generally required close co-ordination and assistance from other divisions & railways. While direct contact these also maintained by the control & operating officers of various divisions the zonal head quarters play a pivotal role in this respect. Some of the functions performed by the head quarters are summarized below


1. Important information concerning the position freight operations on various divisions of railways in obtained through line and stock report daily telephonically and or through FOIS or tele-printer or FAX to the head quarters( central control) from divisional control, now more & more zones & Railway Board are sitting to FOIS generated reports.
This includes, loading and stock position particulars of old out standing and fresh registrations of indents , categories wise position of unloading , transshipment, yard balance important yards and wagons on divisions , train running on each section, average speed, interchange position, loco motive position and loco motive utilization etc.
The position is reviewed and analyzed by the COM/CFTM/DY.COM GOODS/STM GOODS/CMPE(R&L) & CELE. The important position pertain to various department is conveys to the department to the concerned as well as the G.M. the head quarters office also obtained the statement at
the end of each month or whenever required and the performance is compared with (i) the targets, (ii) the figures of the previous months (iii) the figures of the corresponding months of the previous years and (iv) the best ever record etc.
In addition the statistical branch also provides the data to the general manager and the department concerned with operation for detains analysis and review.

2. Head quarters and important part in planning and coordination fright operations after detailed conference with the operation officers and in terms of Railway Board current operating directives head quarters issue direction and instruction the regarding the following items

a) Interchange tractions( categories wise)
b) Loading & unloading
c) Traffics in sight from other Railway/division this information is now available on FOIS terminal where a pipe line can be seen from end to end and expected arrival of trains at destination is also estimated by FOIS system.
d) Convey priority for the day & set quantified objectives to be achieved
e) Reviewing the work done at the important activity centre by yard terminals etc
f) Train in traffic regulation in case of accident etc
g) Certain items of goods operations are directly control by Head Quarters e.g. Coordination & directions regarding rake loading of programmed and committed traffic movement of special type of stock movement of O.D.C.s out of turn allotments and allotment despite restrictions etc.


The Railway Board provides unity of control & direction of the freight operations. It also has the important role of supervisions and coordination which is very much essential for a big network like Indian Railways. the
Railway Boards Control office also remains in contact with the head quarters (central control) of the zonal head quarters and watches loading and movement of important extremes of traffics , like coal, raw material for steel plant (iron ore), food grains, cement, fertilizers, POL, sugar export ores, contained traffic etc it also watches loading interchange power position, goods train running important section etc to ensure that each
Railway fulfills its obligation and optimises the use of various assets , the items watched are or lays the same as those watched by the zonal h.q. in respect of the divisions, but the prospective is wider. Railway Board placed and important coordinating role in various Railway and others central government department and vital sectors of economy connected with Railway, policy formulation and planning which have important bearing on fright operation is also on the measure function of the Railway Board.

IX. Role of some other departments:

The commercial department plays an important role in canvassing for traffic, improving marketing, customer relations, in general booking of traffic, expediting loading / unloading of wagons, quick disposal of unconnected wagons and transshipment of wagons detached out of course for hot axle etc.
The various the departments like Mechanical, Electrical, Civil Engineering and S&T provide and maintain various assets and infrastructure (Track, Wagons, Engines, S&T network etc.). These departments also ensure sufficient availability, reliability, predictability, safety and reduction in equipment failures, promptness in restoration in case of breakdowns and accidents should also be ensured. They also endeavor for the achievements in technology up-gradation along with the operating strategies and determine the level of excellence in railway operations to a great extent in nutshell, all the functionaries have to work a dedicated team.

X. Some indices of freight operation and efficiency:

The important operating statistics, most of which are indices of operating efficiency, have been discussed in detail later in this manual (Operating  Statistics). Some indices of freight operations and efficiency are high lighted below.

i. Wagon holding:

For a given amount of originating loading and receipts of loaded wagons from other railways and making an allowance for percentage of staff out of commission for repairs etc., there is an optimum number of wagons that a railway and separately its constituent divisions should hold to maintain the fluidity of transport system. More wagons than the optimum number might lead to increase in the repairs and maintenance percentage heavier detentions to wagons and trains and transport bottle necks that is more congestion in siding s yards and section without a proportionate increase in the tons lifted, or in the efficiency of operations. Similarly excessive shortage of wagons may lead to loss of traffic. Proper estimation and projection of requirement, proper planning and working at various stages of freight operation is necessary for keeping wagon holding low “ ineffective stock” percentage should also be kept minimum.

ii. Interchange balance :

Maintenance of the interchanged target is an indication of railways overall operating performance and its effort to meet inter railway obligations hence interchanged balanced should be very high, even when maximum trains are inter changed. However, attempts should be made to see that on busy sections, inter change is not only confined to few hours of the day but uniformly distributed.

iii. Load of trains:

A train is a unit of transport. Depending upon the load a suitable loco is provided for its haulage in order to get the optimum use of motive power and to increase the capacity utilization and throughput, each locomotive is given a load approximately to the maximum hauling capacity, unless operating necessity requires utilization of a loco for lesser load. The stations should also ensure that wagons are loaded to the carrying capacity or the minimum weight prescribed for some commodities

iv. Loading and unloading:

To optimize the loading is one of the most important items in the freight operation because it is through loading that Railway earns the maximum revenue. Similarly, unloading is necessary so that wagon becomes available for the next loading. Reducing the time taken for loading / unloading by technology up gradation and other strategies in coordination with the customers has to be endeavourer.

v. Empty Running:

Ideally it is waste of transport capacity to run a wagon empty or with light load, but much of empty running is inescapable on account of the unbalanced nature and quantity of outward and inward traffic at terminals
and necessity of supplying empty wagons. Certain special type of wagons for POL, steel Coal, Natural Gas, Ammonia, LPG etc. have to be generally run empty to the loading points. Operating skill lies in avoiding or reducing the extent of empty haulage and cross movements of similar type of empty stock.

vi. Dispatch in block rakes:

Dispatching of wagons in small numbers always means transit delay while a block load can go direct to the farthest destination skipping many yards, thereby eliminating detention that the wagons might have suffered in the intermediate yards. Piecemeal wagons passing through a number of marshalling yards, where they have to be combined with other wagons to form train loads, cause huge amount of work for the staff and the result in
loss of efficiency, avoidable delay, anxiety and uncertainty regarding their arrival at destination. Unit train movement, i.e. a train load consigned by single consignee to single consignor, is ideal. Consignees can also be motivated to club indents to get train load and block rakes.

Also two points loading on same engine run can improve wagon usage. Close circuit rake movement can also be resorted to between selected pair of stations or rakes. Maintaining the purity of freight rakes has also to be ensured.

vii. Long distance trains:

It is an age – old principle of operation that full train loads should be formed at the earliest point for the longest possible distance. Long distance trains should have least stoppages like long distance passenger
trains. Trains can also be run as “crack trains” or “Link trains”. A crack train / link train is a train when the same crew (and engine if possible) instead of ‘signing off’ at the intermediate crew changing point
works a train to farther junction. Thus, a train running from Ujjain to Godhra or vice versa without crew / Guard change at Ratlam can be run as X ‘Crack’. The crew can also be utilized on ‘crack’ basis when the same crew perform a round trip without ‘signing off’ at the outstation and is promptly provided a load so that crew returns to its head quarters within normal duty hours.

viii. Wagon Turn Round: captive

The interval between two successive loadings calculated from the time a wagon is placed for loading till the time it again becomes available for loading is the actual turn round. As the calculations for individual wagons in the manner stated above are not practicable, the following statistical formula is generally used.

Where ‘S’ stand for the effective daily wagon holding or midnight wagon balance of a day (excluding sick, POH wagons in or waiting for shops, like departmental wagons, wagons lent for departmental use, and the wagons used for coaching traffic). ‘L’ stands for the total number of wagons loaded on the Division / Railways plus the wagons loaded at Transhipment Point, ‘R’ stands for the total number of loaded wagons received from other Railway / Divisions. Thus, for example, if a Division load 350 Wagons on BG (including 50 BG wagons loaded through transshipment of MG wagons), 150 inward loaded wagons are received from other Divisions and its effective wagon holding at the end of the day (midnight) is 2250 wagons, the Divisional Wagon Turn Round will be 4.5 days.

ix. Detention to Trains and Wagons:

a. Detention to trains:
A check on the detention to trains (1) outside signals or at stations adjacent to Goods terminals, (2) in shunting operations at road side stations and (3) enroute detentions for various reasons should be exercised regularly.
b. Detention to wagons:
Close watch should be kept on the areas, e.g. Marshalling yards, goods terminals, stabling points etc., where wagons are likely to suffer avoidable detention during various phases. Although this is watched through periodical data, special attention should be paid to pockets, where piecemeal wagons suffer prolonged detention and often remain out of sight.

x. Engine Utilisation:

Engines being costly resources their utilization have to be carefully monitored. Some of the measures for improving engine utilization are as under:
(a) Running of the Goods Trains on proper path: For this, the Master Charts have to be properly framed and consolidated.
(b) Proper co-ordination between Control and Line Staff.
(c) Reduction in Terminal detention of Locos by proper monitoring coordination and working of Yard Staff, C&W Staff etc.
(d) Judicious ordering of Trains and Right time starts of Goods Trains.
(e) Proper controlling, judicious crossings and preferences.
(f) Loop Lines on critical block sections should not be generally blocked.
(g) Stabling and picking up of load should be judicious and properly planned.
(h) Loco pilot should run at maximum permissible speed subject to restrictions.
(i) Light Engines can be coupled or attached to trains in order to save path and energy.
(j) Light Engines (Single or Couple) should run at maximum permissible speed, for which they are fit, subject to speed restrictions
(k) Signals must be taken off promptly at Stations. Distant/Warner Signals must always be taken off promptly.
(l) Tangible authority to proceed should be handed over at the appointed place instead of getting the train slowed down in front of the Station for handing over the Authority from the Platform.
(m) Trains should be run through Main Line (as far as possible) since looping results in extra time on run.
(n) Locomotives should be in good working order and staff should be well versed in Loco operations and trouble shooting.
(o) Hauling capacity of the Locomotives should be properly utilised.
(p) Engineering speed restrictions should be regularly reviewed and reduced by maximising the output of the Engineering staff and machines. Due care and foresight in offering blocks for track maintenance should be exercised.
(q) Regular foot plating by officers and staff involved in operations, motivates train crew and alerts the line staff.
(r) Effective control over traffic yards to reduce other engine hours, detention to locos at important loading/unloading points and industrial sidings.
(s) The factors adversely affecting the Locomotive utilisation, speed of goods train, terminal detention etc. should be got analysed by suitable multi departmental teams and remedial measures taken.
(t) Incentive schemes for motivation of staff connected with Goods Operation, so as to improve Engine utilisation Special watch on Loco pilots loosing time on run and not running on maximum permissible speed.

xi) Average speed of goods trains:

If we want to determine the average speed of various goods trains running over a section during a particular period. There are two methods of calculating the speed of goods trains. For day to day review the speed of
goods train is calculated from the control charts. It is generally calculated section wise and for up and down directions separately. It may be calculated for each train, the total time taken by all the trains in the section is added up, and the distance of the section multiplied by the number of trains divided by the total time taken will give the average speed for all trains on the section.

Statistical Method:-

Following factors affect the speed of goods trains:
i. Bad planning
ii. Improper ordering of trains
iii. Late start from yards / stations
iv. Improper crossing and precedence of trains by SCOR

Measures for improving average speed of good trains could broadly be classified into the following two categories:-
a) Long term measures.
b) Organisational Measures

a) Long term measures for increasing speeds as follows-

1. Improvements in Locomotives.
2. Improvements in Wagons
3. Improvements in Track
4. Improvements in Signalling and interlocking
5. Increase in section capacity

b) Organisational measures to improve average speed of goods trains-

1. Time table improvements.
2. Review of running times
3. Bunching of trains with similar speeds.
4. Reducing dissimilarity in speeds to minimum
5. Running of Link, Crack and Jet trains.
6. Improving staff efficiency-such as controllers, station staff, Loco Pilots and guards.
7. Proper working of Yards and terminals
8. Proper planning of remodeling works.
9. Simplification of rules for trains working.
10. Monitoring of goods trains by officers and inspectors.

Average speed of goods train as an index of operating efficiency:

Average speed of goods trains have a marked influence on the turn round of engine and crews and also on the utilization of section capacities. Lower average speeds of goods trains generally result in congestions of sections which are saturated which further reduces the speeds. Thus, a very harmful cycle is created leading to lower availability of powers and crews, lesser clearance from yards and further congestions. Many times the only way to break the harmful cycle is to impose restrictions, regulate traffic and thus cause loss to railway revenues.

XI. Staff Supervisions:

Excellence in freight operations requires that the staff offer their willing cooperation. To achieve this proper training for constantly developing the knowledge, skills and commitment is essential.

XII. Targets and Statistics:

One of the important means to utilise fully and efficiently the existing carrying capacity of a railway is to set measurable and specific targets for the various performances after taking into consideration all the local conditions. .Once the targets are laid down, all possible efforts must be made to attain them. The targets should be set sufficiently high and reviewed constantly with a view to improving the performance further. Details regarding Statistics pertaining to Railway Operations are given in chapter on Operating Statistics where targets are not attained within a reasonable period, the causes must be traced and effective remedial action taken, if necessary, revised targets should be laid down.

Google+ Followers