Festival rush is no cheer for Indian Railways

New Delhi:  The recent festival rush in the weeks leading up to Diwali is bad news for the Railways, financially. A Ministry official said, this is because several special passenger trains being run, eating into limited track capacity that would otherwise have been used for cargo.  Coupled with capacity constraints, many casualties due to monsoons, derailments and accidents have put Railway system sleepless all through, leading to cancellations of train services, adding to further loss of revenues for Railways.

While this is an annual phenomenon, this year is particularly tough for the national transporter, already under pressure due to the higher-than-expected rise in working expenses, mainly as a result of the steep rise in fuel price and staff expenses.

The Railways makes more money moving freight, as passenger services continue to be loss-making operations.

Despite the recent hike in fares, losses from passenger operations are likely to cross INR 25,000 crore in the present financial. Till October 7, the Railways had run over 3,700 special rails to meet the Chhat and Durga Puja rush.

The Railways took an extra hit of about INR 1,200 crore on account of the boost in fuel costs in the first 6 months. The Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC), or the fuel-linked tariff component for train services, has been implemented on cargo and passenger services, leading to higher tariffs.

A 10% boost in dearness allowance for Government employees is also likely to cost the Railways INR 1,000-1,300 crore this year.

The excessive demand this year can be gauged from the fact that the wait-list number for many trains is touching 500.

The Railway Board Chairman, Mr.Arunendra Kumar, had recently said that passenger fares are unlikely to go up till mid-2014, by which time the general elections will be over and a new Government will be in place.

Since the policy decision to link the fuel adjustment component has already been nod in the Budget, the Railways reserved the right to review the fares, depending on fuel cost movements, Mr. Devi Pandey, Member-Traffic said.

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