The movement of coal to thermal power plants including movement of imported coal is accorded preference by the Railways over similar cargo moving to other customers. The Railways have been successful in meeting the demand for movement of imported coal to thermal power plants. As per Central Electricity Authority (CEA) reports, coal imports to thermal power plants which were at a level of 3.6 million tonnes in the year 2001-02 have increased to a level 45.549 million tonnes in 2011-12, out of which approximate 14.262 million tonnes were moved to shore based power plants which did not require movement by rail. Out of the balance 31.287 million tonnes coal which was imported, the railways evacuated 30.897 million tonnes and only 0.390 million tonnes were available at the ports.
The capacity of the Railways is adequate to meet the demand for imported coal barring seasonal bunching of imported coal at ports. This has been made possible by a proper planning process wherein a logistics plan linking various ports to various plants has been formulated.
Adequate measures are being taken by Railways to ease evacuation/transportation of coal on Indian Railway Network. A total of 3077.46 kilometres of new lines, doubling and gauge conversion at cost of Rs. 17988.82 crore have been sanctioned and are in various stages of progress for primarily coal bearing routes. This excludes projects being undertaken on deposit term basis from coal companies. In addition, the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors which are slated to come up by the terminal year of the 12th Plan will primarily cater to both domestic and imported coal movement on the Eastern sector and imported coal movement on the Western sector. In addition, the Railways are substantially increasing their fleet of rolling stock to meet coal movement. In the year 2011-12, 11683 number of coal loading wagons were inducted into Indian Railway. Moreover, the wagons being inducted are cleared for higher pay load and speed.