New Delhi: Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda in his budget speech on July 8 claimed that the fare revision – that came into effect on June 25 – would fetch the railways an additional income of Rs.8,000 crore. However, The bad news for the railways is that they are looking at a combined electricity and diesel bill for the financial year 2014-15 of a massive Rs.35,000 crore. And that, railway officials pointed out, was a full Rs.6,500 crore more than the Rs.28,000 crore power-and-diesel bills the railway ran up for the financial year that ended this March.
The bad news just gets worse. Thanks to the fact that electrification of various important routes not moving at the pace the railways required, it spends all this money on diesel, despite it hauling only 38% of the total passenger and goods traffic.
The railways’ Rs.28,500 crore bill for last year comprised electric bills of Rs.9,600 crore, while the diesel bill – despite hauling less traffic – stood at Rs18,900 crore. The estimate for the current year – Rs.35000 crores – is also heavily skewed in favour of diesel, with Rs.24,000 crore expected to be diesel bills.
The issue of the railways’ rising bills was highlighted by Member (Electrical) Railway Board, Kul Bhushan, during a conference of railway electrical and signalling engineers. “The hauling of traffic on electric traction is the cheapest available mode of transport in the country and Indian Railways is progressing steadily towards railway electrification on important and busy routes,” Bhushan told the gathering.
A city-based official, however, said that with diesel prices expected to go up further in the coming months, the calculations of the railways might take a beating even further. It is not as if the electricity bills are giving the railways any comfort, said officials.
In a press interaction earlier, WR general manager Hemant Kumar, while explaining the need for the June 25 fare hike, spoke of how rising power bills was hitting WR. “In the past 2 years, the power rates of both MSEB (Maharashtra State Electricity Board) and Tata Power had risen by 36% and 44% respectively. Currently, we pay the MSEB who supplies electricity to us at Rs.9.14 per unit, while Tata Power supplies at Rs.7.77 per unit,” Kumar told the press.