Sindi tragedy cost Central Railway heavily

NAGPUR: Even as Nagpur Central Railway claimed its earnings have gone up despite the Sindi Railway tragedy that disrupted train traffic for six days between July 19 and 25, information sought under the RTI Act reveals that railway earnings have taken a beating under all heads.

Central Railway PRO P D Patil last month issued a release claiming that washing away of tracks in Sindi Railway did not hit its revenue and during the last four months (April to July 2013), it earned 797.92 crore as compared to 796.78 crore last year. This was 1.14 crore more as compared to last year during the same period.

Every month, Central Railway reviews its earning performance. After railways’ claimed of better performance in July, city-based RTI activist Avinash Prabhune filed a query. The activist says figures actually are at downside. “The marginal rise in revenue which you see is due to a hike in freight and passenger fares,” says Prabhune. He had sought information about comparative performance of July 2012 & 2013, and April-July 2012 & April-July 2013 on various parameters including the following.

Loading: Figures show that in July 2013, loading declined to 1.730 million tonnes (MT) against 2.28 MT in July 2012. This is 25% decline as compared to last year. Subsequently, revenue declined to 120.56 crore in the same month this year from 145.17 crore last year. The fall was 17% than last year.

Passenger revenue: In July 2013, due to Sindi Railway tragedy, number of passengers declined to 25.80 lakh from 28.10 lakh in July 2012. This was a loss of 2.3 lakh passengers (10%).

“With more and more people preferring railways, passenger decline is unexpected,” says Prabhune. This also affected revenue in July 2013. It declined to 27.69 crore from 27.73 crore last year.

“Although 10% less passengers travelled, the loss of revenue was low due to increase in fares,” said Prabhune.

Gross earning: In July 2013, the gross earning too declined to 148.81 crore from 179.02 crore last year.

This was less by 30 crore as compared to last year.

Working expenses: Expenditure on this count in July 2013, was 102.24 crore, whereas in July 2012, it was 91.51 crore. The data also reveals that equipment failures were more in the same month as compared to that during last year.

Ticket checking: The railway registered 15,167 cases earning 61.10 lakh in July 2013. However, last year it registered 14,563 cases with a revenue of 60.04 lakh.

Prabhune says it extremely strange that only over 15,000 cases (less than 1%) were registered as against 25.80 lakh passengers who travelled.

“It shows that Central Railway has to work hard on this count as there is huge potential to stop irregularities by improving ticket checking performance. While issuing the release, these facts were hidden. The credit for marginal revenue hike goes to railway minister,” argues Prabhune.

Punctuality: This is the most important aspect of the railways, but due to Sindi calamity, against the benchmark target of 97%, in July 2013, it was 91%. On the other hand, it was 97.1% in July 2012.

With rain fury hitting Central Railway twice – disrupting traffic in Sindi and Barbatpur consequently, officials themselves admit it would be difficult to make up the losses sustained during the two tragedies.