Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has been credited by experts for his focus on daunting task of revamping Indian Railways. In an interview with Financial Express, Prabhu discusses the steps that the Railway Ministry is taking to increase the national transporter’s revenue. We highlight five key points:
1) By reducing the freight rates, we are trying to diversify the freight basket. We are working on long-term contracts for more stability in volumes as well as prices.
We have met representatives from each sector — cement, coal, iron ore, food grains etc — individually, for the first time in the railway’s history to discuss the specific needs of each sector. Customer orientation of the entire operations is the main focus. The idea is to accelerate the increase in volume and thereby income.
2) We are experimenting with new ideas. We will do trial studies for double stack dwarf containers which can accommodate goods ranging from house-hold appliances, clinkers, stone chips, textile products etc.
3) Besides, new measures like roll-on-roll off (transporting trucks on rail for last-mile connectivity), long-term contracts, abolishing the dual freight policy on iron ore have been rolled out. There are many more such initiatives being planned with a view to increasing fresh volumes and reducing the dependence on the core commodities.
4) As regards non-fare box revenue, we intend to increase advertising revenue from Rs 300 crore in FY16 to Rs 1,700 crore this year. What we are doing is planting trees near the tracks and tapping the advertising potential of the space. We are also using such spaces to set up solar lighting devices.
Additionally, we will use vacant spaces for station redevelopment. We have already awarded the contract for redevelopment of Surat station. The target is of course to revamp 400 stations.
5) We also have a lot of land encroached by others and are trying to remove these hurdles. Some of the lands which are not occupied are being developed for warehousing, private freight terminals, private sidings etc. We are also digitising our land which would eventually help monetisation. (Read Suresh Prabhu’s full interview here)