Indian Railways hopes to get generous budgetary support

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Rail ministry is expecting a larger-than-usual helping hand from the government this Budget. (Reuters) Rail ministry is expecting a larger-than-usual helping hand from the government this Budget. (Reuters)
SummaryEfforts at internal resource generation, cost cutting may work in its favour.

After raising railway fares last month and mulling another round of fare hike in the upcoming Rail Budget, the rail ministry is expecting a larger-than-usual helping hand from the government this Budget.

The Railways is betting on its efforts at internal resource generation and stripping down its expenses to work in its favour when it comes to budgetary support from the government.

Sources said there are indications that, unlike last year, the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) from the finance ministry may not be too far from the requested Rs 38,000 crore.

It is learnt that the GBS could hover between Rs 8,000-10,000 crore, more than last year’s Rs 24,000 crore when the original demand was for Rs 45,000 crore.

The railway ministry is also likely to seek from the Centre an additional corpus fund for critical safety upgrade — a fund it last received during former railway minister Nitish Kumar’s tenure.

Sources said that a few months after setting out to work towards a “plan holiday” in terms of new works for the next fiscal, Railways has actually managed to strip down its works programme for the next financial year. This, sources say, could work in Railways’ favour.

Most zonal railways have not proposed new works for next year. Sources said the size of the works programme could be as low as one-fifth of what is considered “usual” in rail budgets.

Works like laying of loops to increase throughput especially vis-à-vis freight traffic are likely to be on the cards. A number of new lines, especially last-mile connectivity projects are expected to feature in the Rail Budget next week.

In terms of new trains, for instance, even though most railway divisions along the busy 19,000 km trunk routes have been advising railways against introduction of new trains citing traffic congestion, a few new trains are on the cards, sources said. However, the total number is likely to be less than last year’s.

The Planning Commission has been urging Railways to increase internal funds generation by way of increasing fares, and also consolidate its works programme by sifting out a large number old works to lower the financial burden on its books.

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