Global Warming is a serious problem
It is currently one of the most serious issues that have been faced by man. Global Warming is indisputably building up to be one of the most serious killers and hence needs to be addressed on a war footing. Unfortunately, most Governments are not according the issue the serious consideration it deserves, and one hopes that they wake up and smell the coffee soon enough! Thankfully, The Koyoto Protocol has given the world a proverbial silver lining in the dark clouds (literally) by providing us a platform and an opportunity to monetize the carbon abatement efforts and consequently the Carbon Trading opportunities that have presented themselves are hugely exciting. These are opportunities that India needs to grab and it is heartening to note that many enlightened Indian business corporations are shouldering their social responsibility while also making sound business gains, as this is perhaps the only way investments (and sincere efforts) will be put in by industry to tackle this looming and calamitous problem.
One of the largest single consumers of Diesel in the world is the Indian Railways, and despite the low ‘per capita’ emission standards due to the massive number of passengers they move, the gross emissions would still be humongous, and any initiative in cutting down of carbon output that they put in place would make a huge dent in the emission levels, but I’m however a little disappointed to see the Indian Railways making only token gestures towards reducing emissions by adopting Light Weight coaches and solar powering their Signaling. Light weight coaches, to make any sizeable impact will need to be introduced on all trains, existing and future – and would come at an enormous capex as all the existing rolling stock needs to be replaced, and solar powered signals do not even begin to address a really serious issue. In my opinion, to achieve some very quick and high impact emission reductions, the Indian Railways should consider introducing Truck Hauling services on their proposed Freight corridors. This is the type of Inter-modal Transportation System that moves fully loaded trucks on trains and is also called Piggy-back Transportation.
Dedicated Freight Corridors
According to the plan published by The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India, which is a special purpose vehicle set up by the Ministry of Railways, Government of India, the country will see two main corridors being proposed, i.e. the Western and the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridors or DFC’s. I’m not aware of the basis on which the above routes have been selected, but if they have been selected purely on the basis of current parcel / freight bookings, the planners will be missing the big picture. Instead of just looking to shift existing parcel vans to these corridors, the Railways would do well to look at the real movement of bulk freight in the country. An overwhelming majority of the movement happens by Trucking, and if we do not take a few thousand of these off the roads, we will be doing the Earth a great disservice.
Every day, literally thousands of trucks leave cities like Chennai to travel to Bangalore (and vice-versa) usually making the journey non-stop (no deliveries / pick up’s enroute) burning thousands of liters of Diesel, using up lubricants, and other consumables, causing crores of Rupees worth of wear and tear to parts and tires, incurring huge insurance costs, while increasing the occurrence of accidents, over crowding and wear and tear of highways, endangerment of other road users etc., while offering largely unreliable transport solutions to users. In addition to all the above, these trucks are seriously gassing up the world. I believe that the DFC’s should attempt to replace this movement to meet with both commercial as well as ‘green’ success. If the Railways can take even 500 of these trucks off each highway each day, by hauling them with their loads, from city to city, such that the trucks need to be driven only from the origin point to the loading yard and then from the unloading yard at destination to the consignee location, the benefits are manifold.
Truck hauling services can be made mandatory
Such a hauling service would dramatically cut COx emissions, while also reducing our country’s overall diesel consumption. It will improve our fuel security situation by cutting down on oil imports, stemming the foreign exchange outflow and prune the diesel subsidy bill. The resultant Carbon Credits that would accrue should also be a big ticket encashment. The direct revenue generation possibilities and future growth prospects are also enormous, as many businesses should prefer to route their logistics onto such a service, as the entire transport process would be more reliable (and possibly less expensive) than it is currently. Further, if the service is found to be viable and successful, the use of the service can be made mandatory by law as is being contemplated in many EU nations. Surely something worth evaluating seriously by the authorities concerned. Truck Hauling is already being offered in India by the Indian Railways, for instance on the Konkan Line, but the argument here is to apply the same compulsorily on the proposed DFC's, and also expanding the DFC network that can take a large number of trucks off the highways.
In the current situation, Indian trucking largely consists of Fixed Chassis 6 and 10 Tonne trucks. The sizes of the Trucks by the various manufacturers and the resultant diversity in the platforms to be provided for hauling them would be a little complicated currently, but needs to be persevered with. In the near future, it is inevitable that all trucking will become palletized and various container sizes that are uniquely standard to India will be visible. In such a scenario, the hauling needs to be only of locked containers and local deliveries will be made using small and large Trailers trucks. This will virtually remove a majority of the trucks from the highways, leaving behind these overloaded passageways to trucks that are travelling on non-trunk routes or on short haul routes. This will also make the highways safer for all the other vehicles using them, as for several reasons, the Indian Trucker is the worlds’ worst follower of Highway and Traffic rules. Thus, the less he is let loose on the roads the better it is for all of us. More about this in the future!