Some 42 passenger trains have been cancelled across India to allow faster movement of coal carriages to tackle critically low stocks at power plants in the middle of blackouts and outrages in many states.
These trains have been cancelled indefinitely, Railways officials said today, with coal stocks depleting rapidly in thermal power plants. The Railways is trying to take steps “at war-footing” to transport coal and also cut down the time it takes to move coal to power plants, officials said.
The move (to cancel trains) is temporary and passenger services will be restored as soon as the situation normalizes, Gaurav Krishna Bansal, an executive director at Indian Railways, told Bloomberg.
Three Chhattisgarh trains cancelled earlier have been restored after protests by local MPs.
Many states have flagged a crisis of depleting coal stocks.
Delhi Power Minister Satyendra Jain said crucial power plants were left with less than a day of coal, when they should have at least 21 days of reserve coal, and this could cause blackouts and lead to interruptions in services like the metro and government hospitals.
“The situation in entire India is dire. We have to collectively come up with a solution soon. Solid steps are immediately needed to resolve this situation,” tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Blackouts and power cuts have hit life and industry in several parts of India in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave.
Some industries are cutting output due to coal shortage, threatening economic recovery at a time the government is tackling high energy prices fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Coal reserves at India’s power plants have declined almost 17% since the start of this month and are barely a third of the required levels.
Last year, a similar crisis saw coal stocks plunge to an average of four days, which led to blackouts in several states.
Electricity demand has spiked in the record heat wave.
About 70 per cent of India’s electricity is generated by coal. The lack of carriages makes it difficult to carry coal over long distances. Routes congested with passenger trains often delay shipments.