Four ‘missing’ freight trains found after two weeks

Ahmedabad, Aug 13 (IANS) In a bizarre case, four full-length freight trains laden with containers carrying goods worth crores of rupees were reported ‘untraceable’ for several days, creating anxiety among exporters and customers.

While all the goods trains – each nearly a km long – are now reported to have been ‘traced’ at various locations in Gujarat, the exporters claim that they would suffer huge losses if their consignments don’t reach intended destinations around the world as per schedule.

The matter first came to light when a train pulling 90 container wagons left Jodhpur in Rajasthan on July 27 for a 600-km four-day long journey to Mundhra Port in Bhuj, in the Kutch region of Gujarat.

The 90 wagons were loaded with different types of export goods intended to be transferred to waiting ships at the Mundhra Port bound for destinations around the world.

“After four days, since our goods had not reached Mundhra Port for their onward voyage, we enquired with the Container Corporation of India Ltd (Concor) officials in Jodhpur, but they evaded our queries,” Jodhpur Handicrafts Exporters Association (JHEA) secretary Bharat Dinesh told IANS.

Besides Dinesh, several other members of JHEA had sent their goods by that regular container service of the North Western Railway (NWR) and were worried as it could mean major import-export, banking and other issues.

“Despite repeated attempts to find out the fate of our goods, the Concor officials failed to reply and we apprehended the worst for our consignment, totally worth around Rs.9 crore (nearly $1.5 million) on that train. In fact, one official shirked responsibility and directed us to ask Indian Railways, and a railway official said it was beyond jurisdiction since the train had moved out to another railway division,” Dinesh said.

The problems the exporters could face include expiry of letters of credit and bank guarantees in some cases as ships have departed without loading the intended goods, he explained.

Confirming the developments, CCIL Group General Manager M. Azhar admitted it was on account of various technical, operational and natural issues that the delays occurred.

“Due to the floods in Gujarat and Rajasthan in the past few weeks, there were breaches of around two kilometres of railway tracks on the Bhildi section and of the three routes to Mundhra Port, two had to be shut down. Trains were diverted from Ahmedabad Division,” Azhar told IANS.

He added that the CCIL was in constant touch with the Indian Railway authorities on the issue and the latter assured that the problems are likely to be rectified by this weekend.

“As for the long-delayed trains, we asked the railways to clear the oldest trains – including the one which left Jodhpur on July 27 – on priority as exporters must not suffer. At present four of such long-delayed services are back on track and are en route to Mundhra Port,” Azhar added.

While one train was traced to a remote location around 30 km from Mehsana on Tuesday, the other trains have been traced to other locations on Wednesday.

When it was pointed out that there was total blackout of information from the CCIL’s Jodhpur branch, Azhar described that as “unfortunate”, adding that the “valued exporters” had a right to know the status of their consignments.

Preferring to term it “miscommunication” rather than a case of “missing trains”, Azhar explained that the entire CCIL operations are monitored by the sophisticated Freight Operations Information System that enables it trace each and every container moving on the railway network.

Dinesh and other exporters said in this era of satellite communications, mobiles, FOIS and in some cases even GPs, it was indeed strange that entire trains could not be traced by the CCIL Jodhpur officials which could result in losses to them.

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