There is a disturbing news about the passenger business of Indian Railways. This is a sign of worry for all Railwaymen
Cash-strapped Railways worried over fewer tickets booking
Despite a heavy rush for train travel, the number of passenger bookings during the April-October period this year has seen a decline as compared to the same period last year, according to data which could pose a worry for the cash-strapped railways. The total number of passenger tickets booked during April-October, 2013, was 4,967.26 million, a decline of 0.60 percent on the sales for the same period last year, which stood at 4,997.36 million. In the non-suburban sector, which includes regular, mail and express trains, 2,310.10 million tickets were booked in the seven-month period this year as against 2,401.19 million sold within the same time frame last year, a decrease of 3.79 percent.
Why Passenger business is making losses for Indian Railways?
Indian Railways have all along been crying that passenger business is a loss making proposition. Has it ever been analyzed, why it so and what best can be done to make it a profitable business when passenger trains are said to run full. Rail Transport is six times energy-efficient and still find it difficult to run the passenger business efficiently. The reason attributed in a single voice is non-viable fare structure. The fare structure is stagnant for the last 7 years (see chart below). If it is said for the year 11-12, it has some reasoning, but why it was so even in the year 2005-06 when expenditure was certainly 35% less . Trains all those years had run full.
- Building elevated “only passenger corridor” for sub-urban traffic by forming Rapid Rail Transport Corporation @ Rs. 183.3 Crs/Km
- High Speed Railways for “only passenger business” @ Rs. 120 Crs./Km
- Financial viability will only be with road transport where the transporters are queuing up for permits to run bus service.
- Road will continue to eat away into the share of Rail passenger business. With expressways coming up all around, it may become difficult to complete Road. There is a recent news of expressway between Delhi-Meerut, it will eat away rail traffic not only upto Meerut but also of Saharanpur and Dehradoon.http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/NH-24-in-Delhi-to-be-14-laned-for-Meerut-expressway/articleshow/25966680.cms
Building of road can will elections and create win-win situations for politicians, road lobby, passenger and highway business.
- Air will cater for long distance traffic
Productivity Indices of Passenger business:
Productivity indices of Passenger Business is almost stagnant and even declining
No. of passenger and Passenger Km per train
These indices have been worked out from the figures of No. of passenger, Passenger km and No. of train taken from Indian Railway Year Books. No. of passenger per train of sub-urban has risen during 2010 to 2012 mainly due to conversion of 9 coach train into 12 coach train. Similar efforts were also made to increase the number of coaches to 21-24 in case of Mail/Express train but is not getting reflected in any of the trend of passenger and passenger/Mail/Express train.
Average Speed of Trains
There is a marginal improvement in average speed of Mail/Express trains mainly due to raising the average speed of a few trains to 60 Kmph so that their status is changed to super fast trains. Beside this, it is to say that all the technical inputs which has gone into the system has not given any benefit to increase the average speed. The technical inputs that have gone into the system are
- Horse Power/Tractive Effort per locomotive has increased resulting higher acceleration
- Maximum permissible speed over the first loop raised from 15 kmph to 30 comp
- Maximum permissible speed of trains raised from 105 Kmph to 110 Kmph for most of the trains
- Average speed is 46% of the maximum permissible speed. Has it reached the plateau? Why not have a vision to increase it to 60% in one plan period. The only thing required to lay down specification and standardize time tabling for passenger train. Read more on standardization of Time tabling
What should be done?
- Indian Railway shall initiate an action plan to make Passenger Business profitable and attractive.
- Suburban business has been in the domain of Indian Railways all along. It has already given up Urban Transport business and should not let this business to be taken away by Rapid Rail Transport Corporation or Road Transport. It should tie up on cost sharing basis (similar to the formation of MRVC) with respective State Govt. to improve Suburban Service. It should help the State Govt. to transfer road traffic to rail and ease the congestion on roads.
- Suburban business shall act as a feeder to mail/express trains. Railways shall provide a facility for booking reserved ticket along with the associated suburban journey he intends to perform.
- To increase train load making more berths available for reservation
- The website shall more user-friendly where it guides the passenger for comfortable journey.
- Regret/Wait list/ No from Train Conductor are the indicators of poor marketing and should be converted into plenty. Business of touting and black marketing is now left only in rail passenger business.
- Indian Railway shall develop strategy to attract passenger traffic up to 300 Km which is very much in the hold of road due to 5-10 minute frequency and surety of seat availability.
- Increase 3A coaches in a train as it has higher revenue earning potential. During the last six years, upper class passenger and revenue has grown by 93% and 129% respectively as compared to 67% and 61% for Second class. The paying capacity is going up and passenger are ready to shell out more for comfortable travel.
- No of Passenger per train is around 1300 but with a lead of only 220 Km which means it’s not full throughout its journey. A survey will show many berths lying vacant for short distance travels of 100-150 Km during the journey. A transparent system of offering such reserved accommodation for a short distance journey travel at the last moment should be developed. A person when intend to decide a journey between road and rail, shall have the option of entering start and destination and information displayed on his mobile of class, trains and available berths within next 6 hours.
- Summer special shall be made attractive. There is a lack of confidence about the treatment given to special trains.
- Indian Railways shall make the best use of mobile communications system to make the passenger journey comfortable without additional cost for booking local transport, porter, meals from stopping station etc. at fixed rates.
And finally market the passenger business to compete with Road and Air.
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