The government will review the concept of India’s first-ever exclusive “horticulture trains”, after it was plagued by operational difficulties in running these.
Presently, one such train, started almost a year before, runs from Maharashtra to Delhi, largely carrying bananas. The original idea was to run more such trains, which would connect major fruit and vegetable-producing centres with the consuming ones.
The trains are a joint effort of the Indian Railways, the Container Corporation of India and the National Horticulture Board of the department of agriculture. The horticulture trains have almost 90 refrigerated containers to exclusively move perishable items.
But, there have been some operational difficulties like mid-point loading and unloading in such trains, which are not possible as the trains run non-stop from one point to another, said a senior official of the department of agriculture.
He added full-fledged trains just carrying perishable items are not cost effective as all wagons need to be full to make the journey profitable. “To run full-fledged trains having 90 containers, at least half of them should be full or else the cost is not recovered,” the official explained.
According to estimates, the base cost of such trains is Rs 16 crore. This is because all wagons in such a train are refrigerated and have to be continuously powered. Therefore, unless all wagons are full, the cost of running them is not recovered.
The department is now planning to modify the concept and might encourage use of refrigerated wagons to transport perishable items as wagons can be attached to any train for movement.
Officials said apart from modification in the concept, the whole idea of having exclusive horticulture trains might be expanded to include ripening rooms and pre-cooling chambers in the destination and origin point of the trains. They said the government could also consider leveraging the ‘Liberalised Special Purpose Wagons’ scheme of the Indian Railways to transport fresh fruits and vegetables.