NEW DELHI: Railway minister Piyush Goyal has set a target of doubling the national transporter’s revenues to Rs 4 lakh crore by 2025 to make it profitable by then. Over this period, the total investment by the railways would be about Rs 9 lakh crore, he said.
“Our target is to turn the railways profitable so that it doesn’t have to take any gross budgetary support from the government,” Goyal told in an interview. “We intend to double revenues by 2025.”
The minister said his focus was to increase capacity by improving signalling, expanding the electrified network, adding more lines in congested stretches and enhancing utilisation of assets. “Reducing cost is the most important thing. If we were to electrify large parts of our network, we can easily save around Rs 15,000 crore in fuel bill itself,” the minister said.
Indian Railways has prepared the plan to electrify a majority of its lines in another five years, which will help replace diesel engines with electric ones on major routes.
“Also, just by introducing modern signalling on the golden quadrilateral route, we can increase the line capacity by 50%. These lines currently carry 58% of freight,” Goyal said. “Just imagine the kind of revenue we can get by just investing Rs 12,000 crore in signalling, which will allow us to run more trains in shorter blocks.” India’s first bullet train project that will connect Ahmedabad with Mumbai is on schedule.
“We’re also looking at launching four-five more such projects between metro cities,” said Goyal. It was earlier reported that the project, which has a 2022 deadline, is facing land acquisition hurdles in Maharashtra. Goyal, also in charge of the finance ministry pending the return of Arun Jaitley from medical leave, said the NDA will get 350 seats in the 2019 general elections.
He said the listing of Rites and Ircon would take place soon, while that of IRCTC and IRFC would be taken up later. He said the government was looking at non-fare revenues to increase investment in railways.
Goyal said 68 stations will be completed before March 2019. The rail ministry proposes to relax conditions to make it more lucrative for the private sector to invest in them. The railways has proposed that the private contractors investing in redevelopment of stations be given railway land for commercial exploitation for a fixed period.
“We’ve prepared a cabinet note that proposes extending the lease period for concessionaires to 99 years. They will also be allowed to sublease the land,” the minister said. Goyal said he has asked the Indian Railways Station Development Corp. to lease out the stations and the adjoining land separately as the land parcels on its own would get better valuation.
OPERATING RATIO AND REVENUES
The minister said the operating ratio of railways, which is more than 98%, has deteriorated because of the seventh pay commission payouts. Opera- ting ratio is the amount of money railways spends to earn every Rs 100. Goyal said he was planning to narrow the ratio to around 92% by curbing unnecessary expenditure.
On his plans to increase revenue, the minister said that the 3,300 km of dedicated freight corridors being built at the cost of Rs 80,000 crore will give a big push to the goods-carrying capacity of the railways, which in turn will bring in revenue.
The railways has a revenue target of Rs 2 lakh crore in the current financial year, which it wants to double in the next seven years, mostly by increasing its share of freight from 33% to 45%.
“As we add more capacity, our freight rates will also come down, which will increase volumes,” Goyal said. “The speed of trains is also being increased, which will allow us to run more trains. All of it will help us earn more money. Average speed of passenger trains is also being increased by 25%.”He said various other measures were being considered to increase non-fare revenues.
SAFETY AND PUNCTUALITY
When asked about the patchy safety record of the railways, Goyal said train accidents were down 38% in the current financial year from the last one.
He said that in the current fiscal, railways was planning an investment of Rs 70,000 crore on safety related work that included maintenance and renewal of track and eliminating unmanned level crossings besides improved signalling. He said he has asked officials to improve safety while maintaining punctuality, which has fallen to 65% in the past few months from 80%. The reason was more honest reporting, Goyal said.