Revenue crisis: Indian Railways spending Rs 114 to earn every Rs 100

The operating ratio, an indicator of how healthy the financials are, has touched 114 per cent — way off target of 92 per cent.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published:November 2, 2016 1:09 am

Behind the glitz of freshly painted stations and inauguration of new trains, Indian Railways is facing its worst revenue crisis in recent times — it has now stopped earning any money. A letter from the Railway Board to zonal railways has revealed that the transporter is now spending Rs 114 to earn every Rs 100, practically wiping out any semblance of earnings.

Thanks to dipping demands for its services in both freight and passenger business, the shortfall touched Rs 12,400 crore by end of September, when a mid-term review of the financials takes places. In fact, it is Rs 3209 crore less than what the transporter had earned this time last year.

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Looking at these numbers, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is deeply concerned, says the letter from Railway Board Financial Commissioner KB Nanda to zonal general managers. This is the first year of the new cycle when the transporter’s financials will be scanned each year by the finance ministry in the context of the overall General Budget. With just a few more months to go before an early budget scheduled next year, the indicators do not instil confidence, ministry sources said. “The minister has expressed his deep concern and has issued instructions that immediate measures may be put in place so as to achieve the budgeted targets,” the letter says.

The operating ratio, an indicator of how healthy the financials are, has touched 114 per cent — way off target of 92 per cent.

By the mid-year review, Railways was behind its freight loading target by 35 million tonnes. In net terms, this was almost 10 million tonnes less that the loading done by this time last year. What is worse for the transporter is that not all of it is because of the lukewarm economy.

The letter says Railways’ credit realisation has hit rock bottom. As against a target of Rs 4,000 crore for credit realisation it set for itself, it has realised only about Rs 538 crore or about 13.25 per cent indicating that extraordinary efforts are needed to shore up finances during the next half of the fiscal year.

Railways has not only been losing in the financially draining passenger business, but it has also been losing its share of the pie in its erstwhile strongholds of coal belts in Eastern India.

Coming as this does in a year when the impact of the Seventh Pay Commission has started kicking in, the cash situation has left the top brass in Rail Bhawan worried. Steps like austerity measures, instructions for which have for long been in place now, are being advocated to at least cut the Ordinary Working Expresses—money railways spends to keep its house running.

The letter says these figures, if the trend is not arrested, will adversely affect the plan size, when railways has laid out an ambitious capital expenditure target of 1.21 lakh crore.

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  1. S
    Satendra kumar
    Nov 2, 2016 at 9:08 am
    Now the Railways comes under central financially system it gives opportunities for all states to correct the budgetary of the railway system making a viable productive insution.
    1. A
      Nov 2, 2016 at 10:11 am
      In railways , there are more Managers than workers ... Then how can railway be in profit.. a lot many officials in Railway are not doing any work or can say does not have any effective work .. You may find on a Railway Station , you had so many officers , who are only involved in how to confirm the tickets by corruption , or how to adjust some penger having an approach .. and are not even bothered to hear the grievance of a common man , when he approach them ..
      1. D
        Nov 2, 2016 at 8:08 am
        Railways should concentrate efforts on what railways do best - freight. However, improving freight at the expense of penger services will hurt at the ballot box. This is a prime example of a national resource being allowed to atrophy due to political compulsions. And no, the present minister is not to blame. This trend has been around for a while.
        1. G
          Nov 3, 2016 at 7:31 am
          Is Indian railway still the largest employer in the country/?world, too many nibblers, too many fat cats with an atude with no accountability, providing most appalling services.It also serves as a mive vote bank for politicians all funded by poor pengers, so dont expect any respite.Privatise it.
          1. H
            Nov 2, 2016 at 8:28 am
            Mind you Prabhu claimed that in 5 years he was looking at 782100 crores as investments in the;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Did he not know that any Hike in fares will affect revenue generation and affect Fund mobilisation and debt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;To add we have full time Lunatics talking about a 124000 cr Bullet;br/gt;lt;br/gt;What will become inevitable is that Fare will be hiked by 30% and then eventual sell off the Railways for peanuts
            1. H
              Nov 2, 2016 at 11:35 am
              without second thought there is an urgent need to increase the railway fareswith immediate effect. else surviving is very difficult. some times hard decisions has to be taken ignoring the comments of the people. pl do it now.
              1. S
                Nov 2, 2016 at 7:00 am
                Another ambitious development Minister talking investment only in Billion $ is in RED.
                1. R
                  Nov 2, 2016 at 7:59 am
                  Accountability is the problem with all State owned enterprises. Look at the Bus transport corporation in Kerala. Pathetic. All private operators makes their money and runs on time, and lower fare collected that KSRTC. Still it needs tax money to run the;br/gt;lt;br/gt;PITY
                  1. R
                    Nov 2, 2016 at 8:40 am
                    This is the General Problem of all the Railway Minister to remain a Super Start they hesitate to increase the Fare which is one of the major reasons for these kind of Revenue Problems and poor maintenance of the resources in place. Ofcourse one would call me wrong for it as the other parallel things like management and improvement in operating efficiency also pay very important role in overall mechanismlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It was only Mr. Dinsesh Trivedi who was perfectly right when he revised railway fare and was absolutely right in doing so but what happened next due to Politics is well known.
                    1. S
                      Nov 2, 2016 at 7:33 am
                      Years of Laloo and Mamata, large number of people travelling free or on discounted fares, supported by staff taking advantage of the situation has resulted in this sad situation. Better the public knows the truth
                      1. V
                        Nov 2, 2016 at 8:18 am
                        yes but who cares...lets do chest-thumping over the 8 terror accused gunned down in MP and the 156 inch reply given to the s in Kashmir!
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