Trains to ferry trucks, take load off Setu

Where there's a wheel...

By Amit Bhelari
  • Published 26.05.16

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday launched a service that would allow transporters to send their loaded trucks from Patna to Muzaffarpur by train, thus reducing the load on the dilapidated Gandhi Setu.

Under the service, to be christened roll on/roll off (RO-RO) service, railway wagons would ferry loaded trucks to their destination.

To start with, the service will be introduced from Bihta (private freight terminal) to Turki station in Muzaffarpur district covering a distance of 88km through the Digha-Sonepur rail-cum-road bridge.

The roll-on roll-off wagons inaugurated by railway minister Suresh Prabhu in Bihta  on Wednesday. Telegraph picture

"After consulting truck operators, who transport sand from north to south Bihar through road bridges like the Mahatma Gandhi Setu and Vikramshila Setu, we have decided to operate RO-RO service across the Digha bridge. The motive is to reduce the load on Gandhi Setu," Prabhu said, after flagging off the train through video conferencing from Rail Bhavan in New Delhi.

A similar function was organised at Bihta where East Central Railway general manager A.K. Mittal and other officials were present. Approximately 44 loaded or empty trucks can be moved in a rake and one rake will do three trips a day.

Prabhu also said that the service would be extended to cover more commodities and destinations in future. He stressed that in the long run, this initiative would save a lot of foreign exchange spent on fuel and indirectly help reduce pollution.

After Konkan Railway, which started the roll on/roll off service for the first time in 1999, ECR is the second railway to provide the same. Konkan Railway has been running the service for the past 16 years and it has been going on smoothly.

Ferrying of trucks weighing 15MT (metric tonnes) will cost Rs 4,000 and of empty trucks Rs 2,650. Similarly, trucks weighing over 15MT will be charged Rs 200 more for every tonne over 15MT. The maximum weight allowed would be 66MT.

Over 85,000 vehicles pass through the 5.575km-long Gandhi Setu daily, as it is the main link between north Bihar and Patna.

Bhanu Shekhar Prasad Singh, president of Bihar Truck Owners' Association, said the charges for ferrying the trucks by train are high and the service will soon flop.

"The railway should have talked to us before starting this service," Singh said. "I must tell you that thousands of trucks pass through Gandhi Setu and ferrying a limited number of trucks daily will not solve the problem. This service will finally flop. You will see it in a week. The railway should have loaded the trucks at Patna and unloaded them at Pahleja, the next station across the Digha bridge instead of ferrying the trucks 88 km away."

New cancel option

Prabhu launched another service by which passengers can cancel a ticket they bought over the counter by calling 139 from their cellphone or through the IRCTC website. The service would come into effect from May 26 (Thursday).