Indian Railways is working out a plan to terminate the train services that run much below their passenger capacity. The move is aimed at cutting down on revenue losses due to heavy operational costs of these trains.
The Railway Board is in the process of finalising the criteria to decide on the trains that would either be terminated or merged with other trains on the same route. A decision in this regards is likely by February 2018.
According to Railway sources, if the bar is fixed at passenger occupancy below 50 per cent, then many trains will have to be terminated. However, the Railways will keep in mind that there are other trains on the route. “It has been observed that several trains run below normal passenger capacity on daily basis. This causes huge revenue loss and puts extra pressure on the already choked railway network. Rationalising these trains is also likely to impact the punctuality of other trains on same routes,” said a Railway Ministry official.
The official said if there are more trains on same routes, then either the routes would have to be changed or merging of two trains could be done to cater to passengers.
Punctuality of trains is also a major area of concern for the Railways. Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal has issued directions to improve the punctuality of premium trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto. Railways face revenue loss of over Rs.30,000 crore annually on account of subsidy and concessions. Officials said if the idea is to run the Railways like a commercial organisation, hard decisions were the need of the hour. Several sections such as Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai run below their capacity, and the purpose is to weed out trains that don’t see high passenger occupancy, sources said.
The country’s largest public transporter is also reviewing the status of 171 projects, mostly new lines, worth over Rs.1.5 lakh crore as they have not taken off in over a decade. Majority of these projects were announced by former rail ministers Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee in their rail budgets.
Goyal, during a review of pending projects, directed the Railway Board to decide the fate of these projects for they have become a financial burden on cash strapped railways. In total, 491 projects – new line, gauge conversion and doubling of tracks – worth Rs.4 lakh crore are pending.