During 2017-18, the NFR segment contributed around Rs 8,600 crore compared with the target of Rs 14,000 crore.
In a policy flip-flop, the Indian Railways is planning to decentralise its non-fare revenue (NFR) initiatives, given the poor response to the schemes it introduced. According to a railway official, most of the tenders floated under various schemes have already been discharged. “We have already discharged tenders and decentralised most of the programmes. Only RDN (rail display network and OOH (out-of-home) remain to be decentralised. If we do not get response, as soon as the tenders are discharged they probably will also be decentralised,” the official added.
Once decentralised, the schemes will be implemented by zonal railways. The Indian Railways has 16 zones. In January 2017, then railway minister Suresh Prabhu had launched various policy initiatives to increase non-fare revenue to soar up the earnings of the railways. These include OOH advertisement, content on demand, branding of trains and ATM policy, among others. Later, more avenues such as vinyl advertising on trains, mobile assets and on-board advertising were also added though none made any progress. According to reports, many of these schemes were tested and some well-known corporate houses were interested in using the channels.
“When programmes are centralised, it often becomes so huge that finding interested parties becomes difficult. So it is better to have them at zonal level,” the official added. Of late, the railways has been rolling back or reconsidering many of its policy initiatives. The plan to 100% electrify routes had to be revised after the intervention of the Prime Minister, given no railway system across the world is fully electrified. Also, the ambitious station redevelopment plan of more than 400 stations is still to see any significant traction as the Swiss challenge method was shelved and an alternative mechanism has still not been finalised.
In terms of earnings, the NFR policy after the initial burst has slowed down. During 2017-18, the NFR segment contributed around Rs 8,600 crore compared with the target of Rs 14,000 crore. In 2016-17, NFR earnings which gets contributions from has 15 segments stood at Rs 10,338 crore.