The Railway budget for 2010-11 is an official confirmation that the finances of the Railways have gone haywire so much so that nothing was left for appropriation to capital fund and railway safety fund in the current financial year and the prospects in the next financial year do not appear rosy either.

The estimated paltry surplus of Rs.951 crore in the current financial year has been appropriated to development fund and, surprisingly, the spaces against the heads — appropriation of capital fund and appropriation of railway safety fund — have been left blank.

The net revenue has marked a sharp decline from the budget estimate of Rs.8,121 crore to just about Rs.6,489 crore as was now being estimated by the end of March 2010. In the budget estimate itself Rs.642 crore had been provided under capital fund, but now nothing is being made available. Compare that with the Rs.3,065 crore that had been appropriated to the capital fund in 2008-09. In 2010-11, the railways project a surplus of just about Rs.3,173 crore out of which Rs.2,800 crore is to be appropriated to the development fund and Rs.373 crore to the capital fund. Again the safety fund is not scheduled to get anything.

The problem arises from its traffic earnings. The railways just about met the loading target, exceeding it just by 8 million tonnes and hence earned a surplus of Rs.191 crore under this head. The other surplus of Rs.221 crore is expected from sundry earnings.

Passenger earnings are likely to fall short by Rs.252 crore, and other coaching earnings too remain shy of the target by Rs.224 crore. The sum total is that traffic earnings are likely to fall short by at least Rs.69 crore this year.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee acknowledged the situation and noted the need to meet the shortfall in earnings and higher working expenses.

She also stressed on the need to regulate the Plan expenditure to ensure that the progress of safety and other targeted works were not allowed to suffer.

The railways intend to make up the gap by resorting to market borrowing to the tune of Rs.350 crore.

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