“Reduced freight earnings have affected finances of the Railways,” M. Mallikarjun Kharge, Railway Minister, said here on Sunday, after flagging off the Bidar-Yeshwantpur tri-weekly express train.

Work has stopped at several mines across the country due to heavy rain. This has resulted in reduction of ore and coal transportation through the Railways. “Our freight revenues have declined slightly due to this,” he said.

“Crop damage due to inundation of fields across the country has reduced demand for fertilizers. This too has hit our freight revenues. Financial support from the Union government and the Planning Commission has reduced to some extent. All this is affecting our plans of expansion and development,” he said.

“We will need Rs. 1.7 lakh crore to start work on all expansion and development projects that we have announced. We estimate that we will be in need of Rs. 5 lakh crore till the time they are completed. This means that we have to focus more on revenue generation,” Mr. Kharge said.

“A lot of has been achieved in strengthening the railway network in the country and in making it a professionally-run organisation. However, much needs to be done,’’ Mr. Kharge said.

According to him, the biggest achievement by the Railway Ministry during the United Progressive Alliance regime was ensuring direct rail connectivity between Kashmir and Kanyakumari. “The cost of this mega project was well over Rs. 1,000 crore. But it has been completed,’’ he said.

“Wherever I go, I am faced with demands for new railway lines, more trains, providing more stops, modernising railway stations, etc. We have agreed to most of the demands, though we realise that all these need huge investments,” the Minister said.

The cost of laying new lines has escalated due to rise in price of steel, cement and labour wages. We need to spend between Rs. 10 crore and Rs. 14 crore for kilometre of new line. To run a new train, we need between Rs. 20 crore and Rs. 30 crore. A second general wagon costs up to Rs. 80 lakh, while an AC coach costs up to Rs. 1.5 crore, he said.

A.K. Mittal, General Manager, South Western Railway and South Central Railway, S.K. Mishra, Divisional Railway Manager, Secunderabad division, M. Ashraf, DIG, Railway Protection Force, and P.C Jaffer, Deputy Commissioner, were present.

More In: Karnataka | National