Indian Railways is set to knock on the finance ministry's door for additional funds to bridge a shortfall in passenger revenue.
The national transporter's deficit in the passenger segment has crossed the R2,000-crore mark, and with little chance of bridging this gap in the remaining period of the fiscal by raising fares again, it is left with no option but to seek a fresh release of budgetary assistance from the government.
The gross budgetary support of the railways this year is R26,000 crore out of which R7,000 crore would go for the dedicated freight corridors and remaining for completing a long list of populist and regular projects such as laying new tracks and starting new trains. This leaves it with little surplus from budgetary resources for meeting the unforeseen shortfall in passenger earnings.
“We'll ask the finance ministry for more funds as our internal generation would not be sufficient to make up for the deficit. And as the passenger revenues fail to meet the target our share of internal generation in the annual outlay will also remain low. If the funds from the finance ministry is not coming, we will be left with no option but to cut the size of our annual plan," a railway board official said.
The railways has already exhausted its option to increase revenue as in just one month it has levied busy season charges of 15% on freight, fuel adjustment component (FAC) on both passenger and freight fares and increased the fares of premium trains such as Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duranto by Rs 25 on an average.
“All this was already planned when the last Budget was made. We never thought that there would be a shortfall in passenger revenues,” the official added.
Passenger earnings for the first six months have been around R18,000 crore, over R2,000 crore less than estimates. The current year’s target for passenger revenue set by the railways is R42,210 crore and the operating ratio has been set at 87.8%.
The national transporter has set a plan outlay for R63,363 crore for the current fiscal and it expects to generate R14,260 crore from internal generation.
The railways has sought a larger share from the Central Road Fund into the Railway Road Safety Fund, from R1,100 crore at present to around R3,000 crore to fix level crossings.
This year's railways total revenue target is R1.43 lakh crore out of which R94,000 crore will come freight segment.