The railways had earlier decided to cancel 670 trips between March 28 and May 24. A majority of the trains proposed to be cancelled operate in the South East Central Railway zone, which serves SECL, the largest coal miner in Coal India’s stable.
Trains operating in the Northern Railway zone have also been cancelled to operate more coal rakes in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Railway sources said a maximum of 427 rakes were loaded with nearly 1.6 million tonnes (MTs) of coal on Thursday. They added that they have set the target to load on an average 1.5 MT daily for at least 10 days.
“Trains being cancelled operate in non-priority sectors and less busy routes. This decision has been taken to prioritise the movement of coal rakes across the country to deal with an unprecedented fuel shortage at power plants,” an official said.
More coal rake movement is also needed in view of a 27% increase in Coal India’s production this month from a year ago. Coal despatch has also increased by 5.8%. The government said sufficient coal stock with coal companies is available, pointing out coal stock at CIL is 56.7 MTs, 4.3 MTs at SCCL and 2.3 MTs at captive coal blocks.
Several states are facing power cuts ranging from two to eight hours amid a severe heat wave. The power ministry expects peak power demand to rise to 210-15 GW.
Railway sources pegged coal stock at sidings at 4.7 MTs, which is ready to be moved to power plants immediately. Another 2 MTs of coal stock is also available at the CIL sidings. “CIL has offered 5.7 MTs of coal to generating companies and 5.3 MTs of this coal has been booked by them, to build up inventories.
Coal inventories are running low at thermal plants as operators are drawing upon them to supplement supplies to meet the demand spike. But with the railways ramping up daily rake availability to 400, supplies are being maintained to keep plants running.
The latest Central Electricity Authority report for April 27 shows coal stock at 13,192 tonnes, or 24%, of the normative stock of 57,033 tonnes at 147 power with aggregate capacity of 163 GW located away from mines. Trailing data shows stocks depleting slowly as demand spikes.
Power demand surpassed supply as there was a deficit of 8.2 GW on Tuesday, according to the data of national grid operator POSOCO. Similarly, there was unmet demand of 10 GW on Wednesday even as the highest supply on that day was at 200.6 GW.