Reduce uneconomic branch lines, PAC asks Railways

New Delhi:  A parliamentary committee has asked Railways to reduce the number of uneconomic branch lines, which are causing a loss of over Rs.1,300 crore per annum, to the barest minimum and take effective steps to improve the earnings of those remaining.

Noting that the number of uneconomic branch lines has been reduced from 115 to 89 as on December 2012, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its latest report has recommended Railways to bring them down to the barest minimum.

In its latest report, PAC observed that Railways has envisaged various measures to cut down the expenditure on the uneconomic branch lines and also to explore the possibility of improving earnings on some of them.

The measures include introduction of tourist packages on the pattern of Kalka-Shimla section to make the uneconomic branch line financially viable.

Curtail of train services and running of trains during day time, cancellation of trains on Sundays and holidays are some other measures being explored by Railways to increase the earnings from the uneconomic branch lines.

The PAC headed by BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi, however, noted that certain measures were being taken only on a few of these uneconomic lines.

The 23-member committee noted that these measures be pursued vigorously and applied to all those branch lines where Railways could ensure that the lines become viable.

Railway Ministry in its action-taken report to the PAC stated, “The strategies formulated by the Railways to cut down expenditure on uneconomic branch lines and also to explore the possibility of improving earnings on some other branch lines as pointed out by the committee are being pursued with great vigour.”

While agreeing with Railways’ view that running of branch lines need to be looked not just by their economic viability but on their overall impact on the socio-economic interests of the public, the PAC said, “Such losses when allowed to continue particularly beyond a certain agreeable limit and that too without the states sharing of such losses, would weigh heavily on the Union exchequer.”

The committee asked the Railways to come out with an appropriate mechanism in consultation with state governments so that the losses incurred are shared where running such a branch line is in the public interest.

A review of the financial results of existing uneconomic branch lines for the year 2011-12 shows that, on an original investment on these lines of the order of 1,719 crore, the loss amounted to Rs.1,366 crore.