Economic Survey 2017-2018: Indian Railways is taking several transformative steps in a bid to wrest share from competition and also put the national transporter on track, says Economic Survey 2018 tabled in the Parliament today. Ahead of Union Budget 2018, CEA Arvind Subramanian’s Economic Survey 2018 has highlighted Indian Railways’ steps to prioritise investment in “important areas”. “Facing stiff competition from other modes of transportation the Government is initiating various transformative measures to keep railways on track. These measures are focusing on prioritizing investments in important areas, viz. dedicated freight corridors, high speed rail, high capacity rolling stock, last mile rail linkages, port connectivity, and attracting private and foreign direct investment,” the Economic Survey 2018 notes.
The Economic Survey also talks of the various steps taken to make rail transport attractive. “The share of Indian Railways in freight movement has been declining over a period of time primarily due to non-competitive tariff structure. While the passenger fare had remained more or less flat, the freight fare has increased sharply over the year. To make rail transportation attractive and arrest the declining trend of rail share, various initiatives were taken in 2016-17,” the Economic Survey 2018 says.
Economic Survey: The following measures to attract rail traffic by Indian Railways have been listed
1. Classification of new commodities
2. Tariff rationalization; rationalization of coal tariff
3. Expansion of freight basket through containerization
4. New policy guideline for station to station rates
5. Liberalised Automatic Freight Rebate scheme for traffic loaded in empty flow directions
6. Withdrawal of dual freight policy for export of iron ore
7. Policy guidelines of Merry Go Round System
8. Discount for loading of bagged consignment in open and flat wagons
9. New delivery models like Roll-on Roll-off services
10. Re-introduction of short lead concession and reduction in minimum distance for charge
11. Digital payment for freight business
12. Long Term Tariff Contract Policy (which provides tariff stability and attractive rebate in freight to customers)
The Economic Survey also adds that the government has focused on development of railways infrastructure development. “The pace of commissioning broad gauge lines and completion of electrification have been accelerated during the last three years. The capital investment during the last three years has also increased,” the Economic Survey lauds.
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According to the Economic Survey 2018, the project of station redevelopment is the “biggest non-fare revenue generating” one. Also, “the commercial development undertaken near the stations will become the nerve centres of the city and provide quality retail, commercial and hospitality development. Besides, the redeveloped stations will improve passenger experience by providing amenities like digital signage, escalators/elevators, self-ticketing counters, executive lounges, luggage screening machines, walkways, holding areas for passengers, grand and distinctive roofing and flooring, free and paid WiFi etc,” the survey adds.
During 2017-18 (upto September 2017) Indian Railways carried 558.10 million tonnes of revenue earning freight traffic as against 531.23 million tonnes during 2016-17 (upto September 2016), showing an increase of 5.06% during this period. This data point highlighted in the Economic Survey 2018 points to some of the above stated measures yielding results. With dedicated fright corridors and electrification on cards, Indian Railways can certainly look at transforming itself in the coming years.