Hind Terminals has been operating container trains for the Punjab area for the past twelve years. Dr L R Thapar, Chief Advisor – Rail Projects at the company shares plans for foraying into the domestic container segment and also for making investment in the rolling stock to suit requirements

  1. As a CTO, how do you see yourself today from December 2005 when it all began? Are you comfortably placed?

As a CTO, our company has a category 1 license from the Indian Railways. We started our train operations in the year 2007. Even after 12 years of train operations, we are finding that the journey as CTO has been quite difficult and we expect it to be difficult in the near future.

  1. What changes, if any, would you like to see in the CTO policy? Are you comfortable with the current dispensation?

The basic policy for the CTOs’ has been laid down in the Concession Agreement signed with the Indian Railways by all the Container Train Operators. ACTO with the consent of all the private train operators has suggested a number of changes that we would like in the Concession Agreement to the Railway Board about 3 years ago. The Railway Board has, so far, not incorporated the changes suggested by us. The problems of the CTOs are more with the implementation of the policy than with the policy itself from the very beginning. The CTOs have been requesting the Railway Board and other Ministries of the Government of India for providing a level playing field among all the operators. However, despite a provision in the policy, the success in this area has been limited.

  1. Are you planning to tap the e-commerce market in India?

e-commerce market in India is certainly growing and we would like to be a part of the growth of business coming our way. Planning and opening a large number of Logistics Distribution Centres across the country is certainly a desirable feature for ensuring a good reach for the Private CTOs in the country. However, establishment of any Logistics Distribution Centre is highly capital intensive. Therefore, we would like to have more distribution centres to the extent these are financially viable and operationally feasible.

  1. You have a new warehouse coming up in Kila Raipur, Punjab? Why have you selected that region which already has quite a few players?

We have planned a Private Freight Terminal (PFT) in Kila Raipur in Punjab. This terminal will include an ICD, a rail siding and the warehouses required for providing ‘end to end’ logistics. The region has been selected because Kila Raipur is situated on the feeder route to the Western DFC. When it gets commissioned in a year or so, it will be able to allow double stack container train operations from the ports to Punjab and vice-versa.

We have been operating container trains from Ludhiana area for the last ten years and have a substantial market share. Our decision to have our own ICD at Kila Raipur is aimed at consolidating our volumes.

  1. Do you have any plans for investment in rolling stock?

We have plans for foraying into the domestic container segment and also for making investment in the rolling stock to suit our requirements of growth in the domestic as well as EXIM segments in the near future.

  1. With DFC coming up sometime in 2020, what change do you see for yourself in particular and the CTOs in general.

With the DFC coming up in 2020, on the Western DFC, the container traffic will, primarily move on double stack trains. The movement of trains on DFC will be more than twice as fast as compared to the present movement. This factor will bring down the transit time of the traffic from the port to the hinterland and back. At the same time, customers can be assured of ‘on time’ delivery of their consignments in this region and also at the destination points The CTOs will be in a position to run trains to a schedule published in advance for attracting traffic from road to rail.