Coal: a heavy burden on the Indian railways

India’s power demand is rising more quickly than its renewable capacity additions, accelerating plans to mine, transport and burn up to 65% more thermal coal for electricity generation by 2030. Several planning documents have sought to gauge this demand and identify bottlenecks in moving coal from mines to power plants. The Indian Railways plays a central role in coal freight and the government expects it to transport almost all the additional production. A range of rail infrastructure projects, including the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, aimed at easing coal evacuation, are recently completed, imminent or ongoing. The authorities are actively considering more such projects. This report considers factors that may hinder such ambitious coal-by-rail targets, including signs that rail network congestion is back to pre-pandemic levels.