Exam Kits: Advantages and Disadvantages of Rail Transport

In terms of carrying capacity over long distances, rail transport is unequaled by any other mode of land transport. In India railways are controlled by the Government of India. To avail of the rail transport facility for sending the goods, you have to follow the following procedure:

You have to fill in a prescribed form known as Forwarding Note or Consequent Note giving particulars of the goods to be sent. Printed forms of this note are available from the railway goods offices. The terms and conditions on which goods are carried by the railways are printed at the back of this note. In this note you have to mention the description of goods, number of packages, weight, identifying marks, and the names and addresses of the sender (consignor) as well as the receiver (Consignee). The note is marked either ‘Freight Paid’ or ‘Freight to Pay’ depending on whether the sender or the receiver is to pay the freight.

The form of forwarding note is to be marked either ‘Railways Risk’ or ‘Owner’s Risk’. Higher freight rate is charged if goods are sent at ‘Railway’s Risk’ because in such case the railway authorities can be held liable for any delay, loss or damage of goods except which is due to natural causes beyond the control of the railways. Freight rates are lower for goods sent at ‘Owner’s Risk’, in which case the railway authorities can be held liable for delay, loss or damage only if it is due to will full negligence or default.

When the forwarding note is submitted to the ‘parcel’ office, the sender is given a receipt known as Railway Receipt (R/R). The R/R is an acknowledgement of the goods received with an undertaking from the railways to carry the goods as per instructions and subject to the terms and conditions specified in the forwarding note. This R/R serves as a document of title to the goods. Goods are delivered to the receiver after the submission of WR at the inward parcel office at the destination, The Railway Receipt is, therefore, forwarded by the sender to the receiver (consignee) to enable him to take the delivery of goods.

On arrival of goods at the destination, the consignee (receiver) is expected to take delivery immediately within a specified period. Otherwise he has to pay an additional charge per day of delay, which is known as ‘Demurrage’. If delivery is not taken within a reasonable period of time, the railways can dispose of the goods by public auction.

Advantages of Rail Transport

Transportation of goods by rail has certain distinct advantages:

1. For sending goods over a long distance by land, the railways happen to be the speediest means as trains can run at high speed over a long distance.

2. Compared with road transport, it is relatively economical to carry heavy and bulky goods to distant places due to lower cost of traction by power on smooth rails.

3. The number of wagons and rakes can be adjusted for handling larger volume of traffic and thus the carrying capacity is quite flexible.

4. It provides a dependable service as railway movement is not much obstructed by weather conditions like rain and storm.

5. Goods can be carried safely without risk of total loss or severe damage, except when goods are transported on open wagons at the request of the sender.

6. As trains run very smoothly, damage of goods during transit is very limited.

7. A variety of services are provided by railways besides transportation of goods, e.g. warehousing of goods, express freight and delivery service, private sidings for factories, dock-sidings for immediate delivery and dispatch, depots at railway terminals, facility for transport of special categories of g ~ o d s like animals, explosives, valuables, perishable, etc.

Limitations of Rail Transport

Transportation by rail has the following limitations:

1. It proves to be a more expensive means of transport for small consignments over short distances. Expenditure on packing and handling are higher than in road transport. The speed of rail transport for short hauls is much slower than that of motor trucks.

2. Goods are transported by railways only between certain fixed places (i.e. railway stations). Hence it is necessary to carry goods to the railway station by the senders and the receiver has to obtain the goods at railway stations and arrange other modes of transport to carry it from station to his premises. Only in the case of large and regular users, sidings are provided at the factory site.

3. Railway transport facility is very limited in hilly and mountainous areas.

Suitability of Rail Transport over other modes of transport

Taking into account the advantages and limitations of rail transport, you may infer that it is most suitable as a means of transportation in the following cases:

1. Where heavy and bulky goods are to be carried over a long distance.
2. When regularity and reliability of transport are important factors to be kept in view.
3. Where goods are bulky but have low unit value like minerals, coal, etc.
4. Where the goods need to be sent speedily over a long distance.
5 . When weather conditions on the way are uncertain and goods are likely to be damaged in course of transit.

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