Today I came across a news article saying water is being transported to drought-affected villages in Latur district through Indian railways.
I was fascinated by the idea.
It further read, single train ferries 50 BTPN tanks (wagons) and that each wagon can carry a capacity of 54,000 litre of water.
So, that’s like saying a train carries 27 lakh litre of water from Kota to Latur (roughly 1000km apart)
I became further fascinated to learn the feasibility in extending such services in terms of cost of transport.
I learned, that Indian railway uses WDG4 diesel locos to power the goods wagon. In the FAQs section of Indian railways it was mentioned that it takes roughly 2 to 3 locos to ferry 58 BOXN wagons.
I researched more about WDG4 engine, to find that latest one in the series is WDG9 and it can single handedly carry 60 wagons at an average speed of 75kmph!
So, it worked out that it takes two WDG4 engines to power 50 wagons in a train.
As for WGC4, the engine costs close to 12 crore rupees, and gives a mileage of 0.25km/litre of diesel.
Thus, it takes 4000 litres of diesel for a WDG4 engine. And two of these would takes 8000 litre of diesel.
Setting diesel price around 50 rupees/litre, it takes roughly 4,00,000 rupees of diesel to transport 27 lakh litres of water for 1000km.
The cost in terms of water turns out to be 5-7 litres per rupee
Thus, the cost of transporting water for 1000km is roughly 100-140 times cheaper than packaged mineralized drinking water sold over the counters.
Of course, I am missing other variables like human labour cost, maintenance cost, cost in terms of time and other resources like assets.
But, I simply undertook all other variables other than diesel as “for-granted” as railway will not hire extra human labour for moving one train on a track, nor invest additional track maintenance for the sake of one train or needs to invest in additional asset-buying, as both WDG4 engines and BTPN tanks are in abundance with Indian railways.