Over 4 per cent fall in passenger bookings worries railways

NEW DELHI, Sept 27:

An over 4 per cent fall in passenger bookings between April and August this year has left the Indian Railway worried, raising concerns about a possible rise in passenger subsidy.

Altogether 3,427.84 million passengers traveled by trains during April and August as against 3,575.30 million during the corresponding period last fiscal, a difference of 147.46 million, recording a fall of 4.12 per cent, according to the country’s largest public transporter.

Railways earned Rs 19,394.75 crore during the period as against the target of Rs 20,204.85 crore, a shortfall of 4.95 per cent.

Sources said if the down slide is not checked, passenger subsidy, which hovers around Rs 29,000 crore a year now, may go up further. Railway’s passenger operations are heavily cross-subsidised from freight business and any further decline in passenger earnings is a matter of serious concern for the public transporter.

Passenger bookings not only lag behind the previous year, but are also way off the target of 3606.71 million fixed by railways for the five-month period.

“The decrease of over 147 million passengers is definitely worrisome for us,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

However, the public sector transporter is expecting a surge in passengers in the coming months during the festive season to tide over the losses.

“We are hopeful that the situation will improve as many special trains are being planned keeping the festival season in mind,” he said.

Alarmed at the decline, Chairman Railway Board (CRB) AK Mital has written to all zonal railways to ascertain the reasons for it.

The issue was also raised at a recent meeting of General Managers.

An official said the fall has been witnessed mostly in short journey and unreserved segments and could be attributed to ticket-less travel.

“The long distance journey has seen an increase in the reserved category,” he said, adding “a concerted drive has been launched to curb ticket-less travel.”

According to the Railway Ministry data, the public transporter could spend only Rs 17,000 crore of the quarterly planned expenditure against an allocation of more than Rs 1 lakh crore this fiscal.

Taking note of the low spending, PMO has written to the Railways to speed up spending. (PTI)


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