Thrust will be on making Railways meet own internal expenditure: Chairman

Determined to set their finances in order during the next financial year, the Railways have set up a steering committee to find ways and means to raise funds not only to meet their own expenses but also brace up to the eventuality of a 20 per cent cut in their allocation.

During an informal chat with newspersons, Chairman Railway Board (CRB) Vinay Kumar Mittal said the thrust in the days to come would be to tide over the financial situation at least to make the railways meet its own internal expenditure first while capital expenditure would be met through other sources of funding.

Cut in allocation

As regards the impending 20 per cent cut in allocation, Mr. Mittal said a decision had been taken at the NDC meeting and a decision was being awaited whether the Planning Commission would take a general decision or leave it to the departments concerned.

He said a steering group had been set up to find finances as the government could support the railways only in a limited way. The objective is to make the railways operationally profitable at least to meet its own expenditures.

Mr. Mittal declined to answer queries relating to hike in passenger fares saying the decision had to be made at the highest level and the shape of the budget too would be as directed by Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Efforts have been initiated to control spending and the freight rationalisation had yielded results but traffic was not supporting the railways’ cause because of the lean period and the low demand what with the GDP growing at 5.5 per cent.

Fog has added to the problem of movement of freight making the revenue targets for the current fiscal year more difficult to achieve.

Apart from looking forward to leasing and licensing land available with it, the other avenues include PPP mode of executing projects for which a new policy has been formulated. The CRB hoped the new policy would evoke enthusiastic response and a clear picture would emerge over the next couple of months.

Railways were aware that investment would depend upon the economic climate around the world not just in India. The Railways intend to borrow Rs.16000 crore from the market . The government has promised gross budgetary support of Rs. 1.94 lakh crore during the current 12{+t}{+h}plan.

Though quite higher than the 11{+t}{+h}plan allocation of Rs.77000 crore, Mr. Mittal said the railways were in need of more resources to develop infrastructure and complete the pending, ongoing and proposed projects in the days to come.

The Railways were working on the bullet train projects but were treading cautiously given the enormous money that would be required to execute the proposed 530 km length Mumbai-Ahmedabad line at an estimated cost of Rs. 65,000 crore.

Mr. Mittal was hopeful of increasing the speed of trains on the Delhi-Mumbai route in the near future, stressing that the Japanese were likely to prepare the report in this regard soon. Train speed would be raised to 200 km per hour while the maximum speed of Rajdhani is 130 km per hour currently.

Similarly, the proposed train sets service was likely only during the next financial year and would be introduced at a limited scale for shorter journeys on the Shatabdi routes only.