Asserting that Railways should focus more on its core operations of running trains and “populism cannot prevail over performance”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said passengers should pay for the services they receive.
His remarks sparked speculation about a possible hike in prices of railway services after the next general budget, with which the Railways budget will be merged for the first time in nine decades.
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“In a market where the highways and airlines are giving Railways a run for its money, Railways needs to be competitive, focus on core operations and think of outsourcing some of its non-core activities,” Jaitley said at the inauguration of a seminar on accounting reforms in the Railways.
“The core competence of Railways is really to drive trains, to provide those services. Hospitality may not be the core competence of the Railways and therefore, what is not within its core competence, the principle of outsourcing — which is accepted world over — can be a logical addition to those activities of Railways,” he said.
In a lighter vein, Jaitley said no one considered merging the Railway budget when the organisation was in profit —obliquely referring to the poor state of Railways finances now.
He said across the world, the financial model followed by the transport sector was based on customers paying for services. “With this government taking over, we have shifted Railways towards performance and resisted the temptation to search for populism,” he said.
Regarding Railways accounting reform, he said the accounting should reveal more than it conceals. “What is the kind of investment in infrastructure coming in, what is the kind of investment in railway safety, what is the kind of outcome of outlay you have planned, I think those accounts must really reflect the reality.”