12 April, 2021

Doldrums And Derailed Schemes

Investment in Railways needs careful monitoring in light of poor performance

Photograph by PTI
Doldrums And Derailed Schemes

The Budget’s limited paragraphs on Indian Railways (IR) are sufficient indicators of important changes on the anvil. The all-time-high investment of Rs 146,500 crore in IR, projected for 2018-19, is financed by substantial commercial borrowing of Rs 54,940 crore (37.5 per cent). This is double the sum of Rs 25,744 crore which was borrowed in 2016-17 and which came to 23 per cent of planned spending. This change must be evaluated against several critical trends that face IR today.

The top line of the Railways is threatened by failure to match the changing consumer profile. The conventional passenger services do not meet the expectations of reserved accommodation passengers, who are gradually sliding en masse to air and luxury bus travel. This is facilitated all the more by state-of-the-art expressways and schemes like UDAAN, modern facilities at airports etc. The unreserved high-volume, low-revenue passengers are also far from satisfied with the exposure to dust, heat and cold travel conditions, and are not happy to pay more for the service. Thus, the passenger...

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