Tuesday 24 November 2015

Shipping A Motorcycle - By Train

So far on 3 occasions, I had to rely on Indian Railway to safely deliver my motorcycle home and every time the delivery was safe, with no breakage, and predictable (touch wood!). Now I have also used freight services like Gati on a few occasions as well. So which options one should choose while shipping motorcycles from one place to another in India?  To answer that, let us have a look at the pros and cons of each option. Following are a few points coming from my own experience.

Sending motorcycle by Freight (e.g. GATI): 

  1. Motorcycle and any accompanying cargo delivered to your door
  2. More tracking options (phone/website) during the transit phase
  3. Odd-hour pick-up/delivery can be negotiated (say you want to collect the motorcycle from their warehouse at midnight and start the ride by 1am)
  4. Shipping cost is negotiable (especially while sending more than 1 m/c)
  5. Usually allow a carton box with the bike (to keep the helmet, Jacket, etc) at no extra cost
  6. Agreed pricing holds good, no bribing/tipping required, no hidden costs involved
  1. Shipping costs almost double that charged by railway
  2. Takes at least 4/5 days or more to reach from one state (/province) to another
  3. There could be delays due to a strike on the way or other incidents which cause a road block
  4. For important and time-critical rides, a buffer of 7 days is suggested to deal with such eventualities (i.e. ship the bikes 7 days on top of the freight agency's committed duration)
  5. Motorcycles and other luggage are moved between trucks and delivery tempos, many times causing damage to the goods
As it's quite evident by now, sending a motorcycle by freight looks like a good idea considering the ratio of pros and cons I have highlighted here. However, two major concerns may make us look elsewhere. Here are a few examples of issues faced with freight shipping, coming again from my personal experience.

Higher Shipping Cost:
On 13-Nov-2015, I approached GATI KWE (Opp. Lakheswar Filling Station) located between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar to ship my Enfield to Bangalore. After a thorough calculation by the staff, the price quoted was Rs8000+, this was way higher than the amount  Rs 4800, which I had paid on the first two occasions with Gati: once while sending from Bangalore to Ghaziabad (along with 4 other bikes) and other time from Gurgaon to Bangalore. The explanation given was, Enfields are put under the weight category of 300 Kilos (unlike lighter bikes, which come in the 200 Kilos category of booking) and hence are being charged more. There is some truth to this bit, however, the charge was still too much I felt. So I decided to send the bike by train and it cost me roughly 4000 bucks for both the bike and a carton box with all motorcycle gear/accessories/spares/tools. This amount is inclusive of everything (i.e. thick multi-layer wrap, tip to the loading/unloading guys, etc), and the bike was in Bangalore in 2 days. Go figure!!

Damage to motorcycles:
Here are some of the damages caused to the motorcycles we had sent through the Gati KWE Bangalore branch, in august 2014 for our Ladakh trip. Glad none of these was a show stopper for the ride (except for the front brake lever damage, which was a close call).

        Bike:1/5                Bike:2/5            Bike:2/5         

         Bike:3/5                           Bike:3/5         

        Bike:4/5              Bike:5/5        

Ironically the damage was to all of the 5 bikes we had sent. This can't just be considered a one-off case of mishandling. But what saved my faith in Gati was when I shipped my motorcycle from their Gurgaon outlet to Bangalore, the guy there assured me of bomb-proof packaging and a mint delivery to Bangalore (which I wasn't hoping for after this incident anyway). Glad to inform, you that he kept his word and the bike arrived at my door in Bangalore as it was handed over at the Gati KWE Gurgaon depo. So basically the quality of service and handling is a hit-and-miss with these guys I feel. Just in case you are wondering, we didn't get any damage compensation for the above incident from the Bangalore Gati office, though we had mailed them requesting a response, along with these images.

Now coming back to this post, these are just two major cons, that may make one look elsewhere. If you happen to be looking for alternatives, then Indian Railway Parcel Service is right in the corner, standing tall as a service provider for the masses. Unlike Gati (or other freight agencies out there), the staff here may not be really the customer-pleasing kind. Knowing any other departments of the Indian Govt, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Anyway, let us see what they have to offer in terms of shipping an m/c.

Sending motorcycle by Train (i.e. Indian Railway):

  1. Costs almost half of what is charged by freight (even including the cost of additional luggage along with the bike)
  2. 99% of the time, vehicle and goods once loaded, are not touched until the train reaches the destination station (so less possibility of any damage on the way)
  3. Takes less time (mostly half) compared to whats committed by freight agencies (this is depending on available trains in that route and the respective schedule)
  4. Compared to trucks on road, trains are less likely to be held up en route, due to bad weather, logistical issues, etc
  5. Parcel Collection counters are usually open all 7 days a week
  1. Railway parcel counters are open from 8am - 5pm, so one has to collect the motorcycle the day before, in case of midnight or early morning rides
  2. At the receiving station, the vehicle has to be collected within 6 hours of arrival, or else a detention charge of Rs 10* is charged for every additional hour
  3. Packing charges are not included in shipping (in a way this is good, explained later in this post)
  4. Other than nominal shipping charges, some form of tipping is required (/expected) for the loading/unloading guy(s) both at originating, as well as the receiving station
Now if you think 'shipping by train' is your thing, then here is all you need to know.

First things first, what are the costs involved while sending an m/c by train in India:
  1. Packing the motorcycle - this is up to you, the railway is not involved - no receipt/highly negotiable
  2. The shipping charge for motorcycle - calculated based on the value of m/c you fill in the form for transit insurance purposes - receipt is given
  3. The shipping charge for carton box (stuffed with riding gear and tools/spares) - calculated based on weight - the receipt is given
  4. Tip for loading guy(s) at the originating station - optional/no receipt/negotiable
  5. Tip for unloading guy(s) at the receiving station - optional/no receipt/negotiable

Here is what I paid at each stage recently (10 days ago), while shipping mine from Bhubaneswar (Odisha) to Bangalore (Karnataka):
  1. Packing - Rs 800 (usually Rs 400 or less for 100cc/smaller bikes) - Well maybe because I was a bit too generous at that time:P However for the amount I paid, the bike was wrapped like a tank, no kidding!!
  2. Motorcycle - Rs 2700 (the value I had shown on paper was Rs 40,000)
  3. Carton Box - Rs 127  (weighed 20 kilos and contained 2 helmets, 1 riding jacket, 1 tank bag, 1 pair of saddlebags, 2 sets of knee/shin guards, a tool roll, spare tube, clutch and throttle wires, small spares/utility box, 2 bottles of engine oil)
  4. Tip to loading guy(s) at Bhubaneswar - Rs 250 (Usually Rs 100 should be fine, but my bike was a bit wide and the packing made it double its size)
  5. Tip to unloading/warehouse guy at Bangalore - Rs 50 (though he was expecting more :P )

Documents required (mandatory) by Indian Railway:

One needs to carry the following along with a set of photocopies of each, for parcel booking:
  1. Original Proof of Identity (Mandatory)- Any govt issued Photo Id (e.g. Driving License)
  2. Original Ownership Document of the Vehicle  (Mandatory)- RC card/book

Note: Indian Railways allows, only the owner of the vehicle (can be confirmed from the RC card) or his direct family members to do the booking. If due for any reason, you need to send a bike that you don't own, you may enquire, if the railway staff are ready to accept an authorization letter from the owner of the m/c.

Step-by-step guide to shipping your motorcycle:
  1. Enquire about the nearest railway station to your location
  2. Enquire about any direct trains from your nearest station to the city/place you want to send the m/c to
  3. Visit the station a day or two before the train departure date with the necessary (above-mentioned) documents and photocopies
  4. Carry sufficient cash, required for booking/tipping, as a card payment facility may not be available
  5. Once at the railway station, enquire about the 'Parcel Booking Counter' (it is usually away from the main ticket counters)
  6. Find out the guy(s) who does the packing (they also act as agents and may assist you with the whole process for a small tip on top of their packing charges)
  7. Get your motorcycle wrapped with enough padding in the right places (e.g. headlight, blinkers, fuel tank, tail light, fog lamps, front fender, etc). Note: The fuel tank should be bone dry, else during the inspection it may get rejected on the grounds of safety
  8. The guy doing the packing should take your bike inside the station (there would be other bikes already parked inside)
  9. Go to the counter and ask for a parcel booking form
  10. Fill the form with the required details about yourself (name, address,etc) and the motorcycle (cc, cost of the vehicle, make and model, etc)
  11. Get the form verified at the parcel counter
  12. They will ask you to take the form and get your vehicle inspected by staff (usually he/she will be inspecting other motorcycles or would be somewhere close by)
  13. Once the vehicle is inspected, the inspector will sign your booking form
  14. Submit the form along with the photocopies of ID Proof and m/c Ownership Proof at the parcel counter (show the originals if requested)
  15. Pay the amount when asked and collect the booking receipt/acknowledgment
  16. Take the receipt and find the guy(s) who number the parcels based on the number printed on the receipt (these guys will do the loading as well)
  17. Tip the guy(s) if he asks and if possible take his phone number for inquiry (i.e. when the m/c is getting loaded to the train)
  18. Safely keep the receipt for collecting the m/c at the receiving station
And you are done!!!

Here are a few photos I had taken on my phone while my bike going through the shipping process:
Wrapping starts with the removal of rearview mirrors

Last-minute work to cover up the fog lamps with additional thermocouple padding

While the bike and box await inspection at the platform

Another view of the Bhubaneswar station platform, with bikes lined up for shipping

Packaged motorcycle numbering is done :)

The Carton box being numbered by the marking-cum-loading guy

Collecting the motorcycle at the receiving station:
  1. Enquire and be at the station to receive, not later than 6 hours from the arrival of the train (beyond which you will be charged Rs10 per hour for storage/detention)
  2. Along with a helmet, carry a 1 liter bottle with petrol with you (this is to ride the bike out of the railway station to the nearest petrol bunk, as you may or may not find fuel next to the station)
  3. Once you reach the railway station, enquire and go to the 'Parcel Office'  (usually away from the main booking counters) and show your receipt/slip to the concerned staff
  4. Identify your motorcycle and luggage/carton box (if any)
  5. Give the receipt at the desk/counter and pay storage charges incurred (i.e. if you have left the goods for more than 6 hours since the arrival of the train)
  6. Collect a 'gate pass, which you need to show to an attendant to allow you to take your items out of the warehouse
  7. Take the m/c out with the help of the guy and tip him as necessary
  8. Show the 'gate pass' to the brown uniform guard, if requested and they may ask you to make an entry in a register (for record-keeping)
  9. Unpack the motorcycle, by carefully cutting off the plastic strings and removing the layers of packaging (the guy again should do it for you)
  10. Inspect the motorcycle thoroughly once by walking around
  11. If all looks fine, fill in the petrol you were carrying and start it up
  12. Ride it to your nearest petrol bunk and tank up as necessary
That's it, you are done and ready for your ride !!! :)

Few important contact details:

  • Bangalore Railway Station Parcel Enquiry:
    • Inbound (coming to Bangalore)        - (080) 2670 3448
    • Outbound (going out of Bangalore)  - (080) 2670 7731 

Now on first look, it may appear like a lot of steps, but once you read through, you would know, the process is fairly easy and straightforward. From what I remember, the time-consuming bits were, when the m/c was getting wrapped and when I had to wait for the inspection, as the concerned person was not around/busy. Other than that, I found the process quite simple, provided one knows what to be done. I suggest you have 2-3 hours in hand while going to the station for a booking, and if you are lucky, you may be done in just 1.

Hope this post comes in handy.

For any help/suggestions leave a comment.

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


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