Hit by shortfall, rlys to lower passenger earnings in estimate

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 2 2014, 04:37am hrs
With the railways seeing a shortfall in the number of passengers after almost a decade, the national transporter is likely to project its passenger segment earnings for 2014-15 lower than the budget estimates of the current year.

Rail Bhavan sources said the revenue projections from passenger segment could be pegged at around Rs 40,000 crore for FY14-15 in comparison to the current fiscal Budget estimate of Rs 42,210 crore. At present, there's a shortfall of over Rs 4,000 crore in the passenger segment. The total passenger revenue earnings from April 1 December 31, 2013 was Rs 27,646.10 crore against the target of Rs 31,650 crore for the same period. The total number of passengers booked in the same period was 6359.77 million compared to 6413.89 million last year. Last time we saw fall in passenger numbers was in 2003 when we had raised the fares. This year too, passenger fares were raised and fuel adjustment component was levied on the fares. The trend shows that with the increase in passenger fares, the number of passenger travelling short distances (0-60) km falls, a railway boar official said.

At present, the losses on passenger segments have mounted to Rs 26,000 crore, which are being cross subsidized by profit-making freight segment. The national transporter is in a catch-22 situation as it has to cut down on losses by increasing the fares but at the same time it also has to contain falling number of passengers.

In 2013, passenger fares on an average were increased by 20% and a fuel adjustment charge of 2% was also levied in October.

The trend has surprised us as we had set a realistic passenger earnings target. It's an alarming situation and we had to take this factor in account whenever we review the fares next, the official added.

Railway budget estimates (BE) for passenger segments generally see an upward revision in comparison with the previous year BE. Railways had increased BE for this to Rs 42,210 crore from Rs 36,000 crore (BE) in 2012-13 as it was of the view that increased fares would help it getting additional Rs 6,000 crore and also the passenger growth was pegged at 5.6%.

We have to be more realistic and have to cut losses on the passenger segment but at the same time we just can't neglect the lowest strata for whom the railways is the only mode for economical travel, the official added.