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In the wake of shortage of fuel in thermal power plants due to inadequate transportation facilities, Coal India (CIL) has been asked to expedite the signing of private siding agreement with Railways. The process, which started in 2014, has been shuttling between the two ministries since then. A railway siding is an area which is used for loading and unloading of coal in train rakes.
The Railway Board had circulated a draft private siding agreement in August 2014, meant exclusively for CIL for ferrying coal. After a series of meetings and communications, CIL, in February 2017, conveyed its contentions on some of the points in the Railway Board’s drafts to the railways.
CIL claims that it received no further communication from Railways on the points of disagreement, which included cost escalation clauses, staff costs, interest rates and other financial issues. After the Railway Board allowed zonal railway authorities to modify siding agreements in February this year, CIL has asked its subsidiaries to execute the agreements with their respective zonal authorities.
Western Coalfield, a CIL subsidiary, however, pointed out that it has been getting repeated requests from the Central Railways Nagpur division for signing siding agreements, but it is waiting for final go-ahead from CIL.
According to sources, coal and railway minister Piyush Goyal wants the agreements to be implemented by December 28, 2018. Currently, the coal ministry is constructing several railway sidings such as the North Tisra-South Tisra, Magadh and North Urimari siding with a cumulative expenditure of about Rs 905 crore.
Though CIL has increased its dispatch to consumers by 9.5% to 247 MT, but still 11 power plants had coal stock to run them for less than seven days on August 30, underscoring the infrastructure inadequacy to ferry the fuel in the wake of rising electricity demand.
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