Railways’ goods train are no longer crawling on the tracks. During the lockdown period, goods train have registered 66 per cent increase in speed, with many zones even registering double the speed from the same period last year, as the threat of coronavirus keep the passenger trains off the rail network, decongesting its routes.

During normal times, goods trains run at an average speed of 24 kmph, but during the lockdown, some zones have managed to double their speeds. In East Central Railway where goods trains ran at a speed of 22.2 kmph on an average last year at this time, such trains are running at more than double the speed at 53.15 kmph as of April 27, 2020 according to data accessed by .

The Konkan Railway is hitting a speed of 54 kmph, while goods trains are running in North Central zones are running at 46 kmph and those in Western Railway are running at 43 kmph.

In the South Central Railway Zone such trains which ran at around 26 kmph last year on April 27, are now running at around 49 kmph, the data shows. Similarly, northern railway which ran its goods trains at 25 kmph are running it now at 39 kmph.

Overall, the speed of such trains have gone up by 66.48 per cent in April as compared to the same period last year.

“Passenger and freight trains run at different speeds and a slow running freight train has to be stopped frequently to allow a faster passenger train to pass. This reduces the average speed of the freight trains. Now, with the absence of passenger trains, freight trains can run unhindered so there is an average increase in speed, ” railway spokesperson R D Bajpai told .

In fact, freight has taken precedence for the railways over the past two months with the country depending on the network for the supply of essential commodities. Railways has transported 32 lakh tonnes of foodgrains between 1st-16th April 2020 as compared to 12.9 lakh tonnes in the same period last year.

On 22 April 2020, Indian Railways created a new record by loading foodgrains of 112 rakes which is equivalent to 3.13 lakh tonnes.

In fact freight operations have been given a priority even during the services of the Shramik Special trains which are being run to ferry migrant labourers stranded across the country. In its guidelines to its zones, the railways has said that the freight operations should continue to be optimised to achieve the objective of 50 kmph average speeds.

“With two dedicated freight corridors coming up, we will shift freight traffic of these routes on these corridors, which will not only support railways effort to increase the speed of the all passenger trains to 160 kmph but also enhance the average speed of freight trains substantially,” Bajpai said.

The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has hit the railways hard with the national tranpsorter ending 2019-20 fiscal 15.7 million tonnes less than the previous years 1,212.56 million tonnes, official figures show.

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