Despite readiness on part of his ministry to do away with unnecessary stoppages of hundreds of trains, which slow down the network, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda has decided to defer the decision to avoid a political backlash.
On Friday, the Railways extended the stoppages indefinitely as Gowda and his team of officials decided to write letters to each MP, past and present, upon whose wishes the stoppages had been granted, explaining to each of them why these stoppages needed to be scrapped. There are over 250 such explanatory letters to be sent.
Thanks to huge revenue leakage coupled with operational constrains of the Railways caused by the 1250 ‘experimental stops’ which had been granted to trains across India following requests from MPs in the past few years, Gowda had agreed to scrap them by September 30. He had also sounded out Parliament that these stoppages would be “reviewed”.
“I will write to the MPs, while the minister will write to Union ministers, present and past, who are on the list, so that they can explain the reasons to people in their constituencies,” Devi Prasad Pande, Member Traffic, Railway Board, told The Indian Express. Sources said Gowda had taken the matter up to the PMO, which had advised him not to go ahead with the move without explaining to the MPs concerned why this decision was necessary.
In an internal costing exercise done as part of the Rail Budget, it was discovered that each additional stop was costing Railways Rs 8,000 on account of fuel and other operational costs associated with stoppages. In return, the national transporter was getting back less than Rs 500 per such stoppage on an average. The estimated revenue leakage per year is a staggering Rs 300 crore (not all trains run daily), nibbling into whatever little the cash-strapped transporter manages to earn from running the highly subsidised passenger trains.
It is this economics, besides the fact that the mammoth network slows down every time a train needs to stop unnecessarily, that the letters to the MPs would contain. The letters are said to be ready to be signed and would be dispatched immediately.