Indian Railways (IR) will end its operation on a 35-km line between Chandrapura and Dhanbad from Thursday. The line goes through the Jharia coalfield area and is under threat of caving in due to underground fire.
Closure of the line will affect about 75 per cent of the production of Bharat Coking Coal
(BCCL), subsidiary of government-owned Coal India
(CIL). On an average, the route carries around 25 million tonnes (mt) of coal in a year; that means Rs 2,500 crore in rail revenue is hit.
The line also carries 12.4 million passengers, leading to an annual additional loss of around Rs 250 crore. Further, there will be loss on account of steel and iron ore traffic but an estimate is not yet made.
“Of the 25 mt lost coal traffic, we are in talks with CIL to compensate in other mine areas, thereby minimising the losses to 10 mt,” said Mohammed Jamshed, member (traffic) at the Railway Board.
The line had 20 pairs of mail and express trains and another six pairs of passenger trains. And, 20 pairs of freight trains. Of the 25 mt loss on coal traffic, 12 mt is from the BCCL area and 13 mt from that of Central Coalfields, both in the Jharia region. Jharia, one of India’s biggest coalfields, is estimated to have nearly 80 cases of underground fire, since 1916.
IR was also forced to shut down the Dhanbad to Jharia route in 2007 due to a similar reason. This is likely to be safe for operations from 2022.
“This (the new closure) is a decision by the Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS), based on safety parameters. CIL has not asked the railways to move out,” said a senior CIL official.
According to DGMS, about 14 km of the 35-km stretch is unsafe. IR has decided to divert at least seven daily mail and express trains to other routes, while the remaining trains will be cancelled.
Despite several steps, only around 10 fires out of 80 have been extinguished since the government takeover of coal mines in 1971.