No looking back for pvt players once terminals are set

Written by Surabhi Rastogi | Surabhi | Arun S | New Delhi, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2008, 04:55am hrs
K C Jena, the new chairman of the Railway Board has taken over at a time when the railways is going through a period of major transformation. In an interview with Arun S & Surabhi of FE, he said, despite operating ratio (OR) going to 81.4% in 2008-09 from 76.3% in 2007-08, it will improve in the subsequent years.

The passenger fares have not decreased much this year. Is it an eyewash Or can you afford a further cut in passenger fares

Till now, my strategy has been to carry large volumes at lower cost. The number of passengers was 6,688 million in 2007-08. In 2008-09, I suppose it will be 7,056 million. We have to see how to accommodate a further passenger fare cut. This year, the initial feeling was that the Garib Rath would be a loss-making exercise. But we have now found that the A/C III tier and Garib Rath have raked in lot of money. So we feel this marginal drop in fares will bring in more passengers. This will be taken care of by increasing the train length and coach capacity.

Will you be able to meet the rolling stock target

This year we got over 10,000 new wagons. In the next year, we are planning 20,000 wagons. It is not a very huge target as we have companies geared up for this. Besides, we have the wagon leasing and investment policy. Now we are going to allow foreign companies along with Indian partners. Many foreign companies have shown interest to come in. After this happens, I am sure we will have new technology and new designer wagons. This will help us further to meet the target.

In the new PPP model, operators have been facing a lot of problems regarding getting good returns and in meeting targets. Are you planning to solve these problems

Any infrastructure project takes time. They cannot expect quick results. After a few years, they will reap huge benefits. This is the case all over the world. But, we are trying to solve the problems of the private players. Their main problem has been lack of terminals, which obviously they have to develop and it takes time. They are doing it at their own pace. Once they set it up, there will be no looking back.

You also mentioned that you will cut certain low-skilled jobs and add more jobs in the high-end category. Can you elaborate

With the entry of new technologies, I have to reduce manpower in certain conventional areas. But since I am adding new activities, I will need manpower there. Therefore the numbers will not come down. In fact, it may go up after some time when westart having more stations and areas to look after. From 1.7 million we have come down to 1.4 million plus. The sanctioned strength in most sections has gone up.