The Indian Railways-pros and cons

first_imgThe Indian Railways is one of the premier transporters of passengers and goods in the country. Incidentally, this is the largest employer of people as an organisation crisscrossing the national employment index. The employee base of this mammoth organisation consists of gang men, loco-pilots, station masters, clerical and administrative staff, guards, ticket examiners and most importantly, the critical technical staff who man the railway tracks on the one hand and the critical, but important signalling system, on the other. Till recently, the Union and Railway budgets were presented as two separate and distinct budgets on practically two separate days. But, since the last few years, the Railway Budget is presented as a part and parcel of the Union Budget, which is presented in the first week of the month of February every year.The Railway organisation consists of two services- passenger and freight. Generally, in India, passenger fares of trains are heavily over-subsidised. There is a dire need and necessity for train fares to be increased across the board to fulfil the dual purposes of higher profitability on the one hand and improved services to the customers, on the other.Higher profitability would ensure more dividend in the hands of the Central government and more resources to spend on employee perquisites on the one hand and improved commuter amenities on the other. The Indian Railways spends a huge sum of money on its employees as part of operational cost, and thus arises the need to partly fund this huge financial requirement by raising passenger fares in a small way. This, in an eventuality, the Railways at present has to beg its bowl in front of the finance ministry and the central government even for its basic operational requirements. As per a recent survey, the Indian Railways recovers only 40% of its operational cost from commuters in the form of railways fares across zones.This only ensures that the premier national transporter occasionally is in the red zone and is promptly seen hitting the panic button. Additionally, apart from the basic human resource necessities of the Indian Railways, it needs huge sums of money as capital expenditure for track maintenance, automatic signalling systems and laying of new railway lines and doubling and electrification of railway lines. For laying of new railway lines, for every 1 kilometre of laying a new railway line, the cost incurred is anywhere between Rupees 1 Crore to 3 Crores per kilometre. Thus, if a railway minister is very populist in his expectations and lays an ambitious projection of around 1,000 kilometres of new railway lines to be laid every financial year, he would require a capital expenditure of around Rupees 1,000 to 5,000 crores and above, keeping in mind the current rate of capital and operational expenditure and allowance in the form of additional expenditure due to a combination of reasons such as the increase in wholesale and retail prices on the one hand and project delays due to a host of factors hinging on the adequate availability of land, labour and capital.Also, there is a huge pool of land available with the Indian Railways which can be monetised, which will at least ensure some money in the coffers of the transport behemoth and would be sufficient for its basic operational and capital expenditure needs to some extent. The privatisation of the railways partly would relieve the transporter from some of its financial worries, as the running of more trains like Tejas would inject more life and stability in the form of increased commuter patronage on the one hand and greater revenue in the form of high fares for certain pre-specified sectors and travel routes. The Indian Railways uses two types of fuel for running its trains- one through diesel and the other by electric.At present, diesel engines are run on certain routes where there are single lines, or alternatively, where there are double lines which are not yet electrified. Comparatively, diesel engines are more costly as electric lines are run on fossil fuel; Electric engines are not so costly as conventional diesel engines and are more energy-efficient, eco-friendly and are faster when compared with the conventional diesel engines. The main types of trains run by the Indian Railways are the ordinary express trains, passenger trains, Garib Rath, Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto. Ordinary express trains are very cheap, as the sleeper class fares and the general second class tickets are very cheap and half the fares when compared to air-conditioned and ordinary buses. But, the catch here is that the air-conditioned fares, especially the 2-tier and AC 1st Class fares are too exorbitant, and at times equals or is in excess of the fares fixed by airlines such as Air India and other competing for private airlines.Here also, the basic point is that there is a huge rush for AC train tickets, especially for AC 2-tier and AC First Class which requires the ordinary commuter to book their tickets a couple of months before the date of travel. This time lag sometimes stretches to around 3-4 months, especially in the summer peak season. Shatabdi trains are mainly intended for day travel, that too for distances ranging from 150 to 500 kilometres. Here, the two classes of travel available are Anubhuti, Executive Class and First Class. The Garib Rath trains are mainly intended to reach out to the poorest of the poor people. This train only has coaches to be reserved many days prior to the date of departure. But, to the contrary, although these trains are much faster and punctual when compared to ordinary express trains, the train fares are too steep and practically, out of the reach of the common man.For example, an ordinary second class ticket from Bangalore to Hyderabad costs around Rupees 350, but the same travel on a Garib Rath is almost double the ordinary second class train ticket. Similarly, the Rajdhani express is a train which connects almost all state capitals to New Delhi, as the name itself suggests. Here, the fares are very high and sometimes, on odd days, the fares are as much as the economy class fares on private airlines or even more than that. For example, for travelling from Bangalore to New Delhi, the fare on the Rajdhani Express is anywhere between Rupees 3,000 to 5,000. But, at short notice, one can book an air ticket for the same amount or lesser amount. Thus, the purpose of running Rajdhani trains is partly defeated, and a major pie is grabbed by private airlines at very short notice and at the complete grasp of the common man who opts for airlines as a mode of commuting long distances, at a faster and comparatively cheaper travel option.Also, booking for trains generally takes a lot of time, thus making the ordinary and occasional traveller to opt for private airlines as a mode of travel, that too for people wanting to commute from cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai to destinations such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Bhubaneshwar among other places. Here, the waiting period for a train ticket is around 15 days to two months in a peak season, while it ranges from 2-7 days for a private airline, where generally seats are available in plenty. Generally, express trains have around 24 coaches while passenger trains are equipped with around 18 coaches.Certain passenger trains covering a distance of 200-300 kilometres are only equipped with around 8 coaches. This has to be streamlined as the number of coaches have to be suitably increased to around 12 keeping in view passenger’s requirements, operational necessities, commuter patronage and increased revenue due to sale of a maximum number of tickets. Unreserved passenger tickets are issued at least 3 hours before the departure of a train. The Shatabdi Express has around 8-9 AC coaches other than the Power Car and Guard Coach. The Garib Rath has around 12-15 AC coaches while the Rajdhani is equipped with around 15-18 AC coaches. The major junctions of the Indian Railways in South India are Jolarpettai and Guntakal. The railway coach factories in India are located at Perambur in the south and the Chittaranjan coach factory near Kolkata. The railway locomotive factory is located at Asansol in West Bengal. This factory has produced a record 406 locomotives, which has enabled it to enter the Limca Book of World Records.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *