Board hopeful of achieving ambitious revenue target for the year

With Railways’ finances and projects still in the doldrums, freight and passenger fares are set to rise and soon a Rail Tariff Authority is to be established. Railway Board Acting Chairman Arunendra Kumar told The Hindu that clarification from the Law Ministry was received for setting up the authority through an executive order as desired by the Cabinet to avoid the delay in the legal process.

Since the Cabinet approved the proposal, Mr. Kumar said the Railway Board was free to notify the authority, constitute it, and set the ball rolling for the next fare hike.

The Railways, for the first time, increased passenger fares midstream by way of fuel adjustment component (FAC) last week. The FAC was imposed on freight charges as well.

Stressing that the recent exercise would yield an additional revenue of Rs. 2,500 crore, overcoming the loss of Rs. 2,380 crore suffered in the first half of the financial year, Mr. Kumar was hopeful of growth in the months ahead with the bad days gone.

He was confident of achieving the ambitious revenue target for the year. At the most the shortfall would be about Rs. 1,000 crore and not Rs. 6,000 crore as it once appeared, he maintained.

Nevertheless, a 20 per cent curb on expenditure was issued to all zonal railways, Mr. Kumar said, clarifying that the situation would be reviewed if generation of internal resources picked up.

Payment of productivity-linked bonus for 78 days and the hiked payment of 10 per cent DA as against the expected 8 per cent had put monetary pressure on the railway exchequer.

He, however, said the government would provide the promised gross budgetary support of Rs. 26,000 crore, while the Indian Railway Finance Corporation Ltd., (IRFC) would raise Rs. 15,000 crore very soon through bonds. This money is used only on projects with a high yield.

Mr. Kumar admitted that the railways were in a position to meet targets for doubling of tracks and electrification, but those for constructing new lines and gauge conversion were likely to be missed for want of funds.

On clearing the huge backlog of old projects, he said a priority list was drawn up of the socially desirable projects and those which would help capacity building like the third coal-line between Bilaspur and Jharsuguda.

Little headway had been made to realise the budgetary promise of ensuring Rs. 6,000 crore in the form of private investment during the current financial year. Mr. Kumar was hopeful of finding private players for establishing the loco factories in Bihar — Madhepura and Marhaura.

In view of the new law pertaining to land acquisition and relief and rehabilitation, Mr. Kumar said the railways would soon be suitably changing provisions in their own rules.