[Kurukshetra May Summary] Railway Connectivity – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

Indian Railways has witnessed a paradigm shift in its focus towards new technologies, customer service enhancement, improving railway connectivity, efficient passenger operations and better freight services. It is currently on the path of transformation to make the sector future-ready. Railways provide various services for goods and passenger transportation that are vital for inclusive growth and overall development of India. Nonetheless, certain bottlenecks remain that need to be addressed.

What is the current status and trend regarding railway connectivity in India?

It was recorded that in FY 19-20 about 13,169 passenger and 8,479 goods trains were operated daily. 

The increasing urbanization and higher standard of living are driving the growth in the passenger segment. On other hand, freight traffic has increased substantially due to growing industrialisation in the last decade. For Railways, freight remains the major source of revenue which accounted for around 65% of the total revenue generated in FY2020-21. 35% revenues were from passenger segment.

In freight traffic, Indian Railways plans to achieve 2024 MT (million tonnes) of loading in 2024 from the current level of 1200-1300 MT. It is projected that by 2050, India will account for 40% of the global share of rail activity and hence would need an investment of Rs. 50 lakh crore (by 2030) in railway infrastructure development.

Parameter2018-192019-202020-21
Route Total (Electrified) (kms)67,415 (34,319)67,956 (39,329)68,103 (44,802)
No. of Employees (Thousand)1,2281,2541,252
Wage Bill (INR Cr)1,35,1711,56,2431,56,730
Average Wage/employee (INR)11,02,93412,45,32812,49,755
No. of passengers (million)8,4398,0861,250
Passenger Earnings (INR Cr.)51,06750,66915,248
Freight Traffic (million tonnes)1,2251,2121,233
Freight Earnings (INR Cr.)1,22,5801,11,4721,15,738
Gross Revenue (INR Cr.)1,90,5071,74,6941,40,783
Working Expenses (INR Cr.)1,86,7331,73,1051,38,236
Net Revenue (INR Cr.)3,7731,5892,547
Operating Ratio* (%)97.398.497.4

Source: Indian Railways Statistical Statements, 2020-21

*Operating Ratio: It shows the efficiency of a company by comparing the total operating expenses to net sales. The operating ratio shows how efficient a company’s management is at keeping costs low while generating revenue. The smaller the ratio, the more efficient the company is at generating revenue.

What is the importance of Indian Railways?

Employment: The railways provide greater employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor. Over 12 lakh persons are depending upon railways for their livelihood.

Boosting Make in India: A robust rail network will augment the transportation system that will attract more investment in India. This will aid in enhancing the current manufacturing capacity of the nation.

National Integration: It connects the remotest corners of a state with main cities and other states. Further, enhancing railway connectivity will play a pivotal role in connecting the north east with mainland India.   

Dependable: It is the most dependable mode of transport as it is the least affected by weather conditions such as rains, fog etc. compared to other modes of transport.

Social Benefits: Indian Railways provide special concessions to women, old, disabled etc.. in fares and other services. Charges are based on the ‘charge what the traffic can bear’ principle which helps the poor.

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What steps have been taken by the Government for enhancing railway connectivity?

Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs): The DFCs are being created with the motive of improving the share of freight traffic. They were supposed to be operational by 2022. However now they are expected to be completed by 2023-24. DFCs include: (a) The Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC), from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai; (b) The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC), Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal.

The World Bank has funded INR 124.53 billion for the Eastern DFC, while the Japan International Cooperation Agency has provided INR 387.22 billion for the Western DFC

DFCs Raliway Connectivity UPSC

Source: The Hindu

PM Gati Shakti: It is a transformative approach driven by seven engines, namely, Roads, Railways, Ports, Airports, Waterways, Mass Transport and Logistics Infrastructure to spur economic growth and sustainable development. It will help in developing world-class modern infrastructure and logistics which will bring synergy by providing multi-modal integrated and seamless connectivity for movement of people, goods and services.

Atma Nirbhar Bharat Initiative: After this, more than 97% of the equipment required for the production of electric locomotives is being sourced domestically. The Indian Railway has also started manufacturing smart coaches, which provide additional features like announcements, information on trains approaching different stations and air-conditioning and temperature control, etc.

Kisan Rail: The commencement of ‘Kisan Rail’ is another important initiative to improve the freight business in general and provide a push to farmers in particular. Under this scheme, 157 trains are being operated on eight routes transporting more than 49,000 tonnes of commodities.

Green Fuel Initiatives: Indian Railways is aiming to achieve 100 percent electrification of railway lines by December 2023. As of March 31, 2021, the Railways had electrified 66% (~45,000 km) of its total network (~68,000 km). Indian Railway has adopted an environment-friendly technology called Head-on Generation (HOG) system for supplying power to passenger coaches. It eliminates the requirement for separate power cars in trains, thus cutting down energy costs significantly.

Station Infrastructure Redevelopment Programme: The Government of India has launched the station redevelopment programme, which aims to redevelop 400 railway stations across India for INR 1,000 billion under a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The programme will try to develop self-sustainable railway stations with high standards of safety, comfort, user-friendly passenger amenities, value-added services and efficiency by adopting the best technological practices.

Digitisation Initiative: As of July, 2021, the Wi-Fi facility has been provided at 6,045 railway stations. Other digital initiatives include the installation of internet-based video surveillance systems and IP-based CCTV surveillance cameras. 

Connecting the North-East and Mining Districts: The railway connectivity is being enhanced in the North-east as part of inclusive development. The entire rail network of the North-East (NE) is being connected to broad gauge. Major cities in all NE States are being connected by Rail. The Railways has also launched ‘Mission Hungry for Cargo‘ initiative that is targeting a 45% modal share in freight transport from current 27%. The Railways is also mapping mining districts of the country to enhance their railway connectivity.

What are the challenges faced by Indian Railways?

Over Departmentalization: The Railway Board is IR’s apex decision-making body. It is organised into various departments like mechanical, electrical, traffic and finance that are vertically separated from the top to bottom. These lines of separation made IR a complex over-departmentalised organisation with inefficient decision-making.

Financial Stress: Traffic revenue is unable to keep pace with the increase in staff costs and pension payments. With the (Eighth) Pay Commission, to be scheduled in 2025-26 the working expenses of railways will further increase. Further, almost 50% of freight earnings are contributed by the transport of coal. With the increasing usage of renewable energy at competitive prices, dependence on coal will reduce. This will affect freight revenues.

Lack of Modernization: Indian Railways has not been able to keep pace with modernisation of infrastructure and services. Almost all arms of the railways require modernisation of equipment, processes and training, all of which are still continuing as they have been, through the decades.

Safety: In India rail accidents are high. In 2018-19, railways recorded 16 deaths, 28 deaths in 2017-2018 and 195 deaths during 2016-2017. The Kakodkar committee had suggested investing INR 1 lakh crore over a 5-year period and the creation of a statutory railway safety authority.

What should be the approach going ahead?

First, creation of a single cadre for railways management (IRMS) by the government is a prudent step to eliminate ‘departmentalism’ in railways. It will help improve efficiency.

Second, focus should be on increasing the revenues, particularly the freight revenue. In this context, the operationalization of two DFCs should be expedited.

Third, an annual report called ‘Indian Railways Report’ on the lines of the annual Economic Survey should be placed in Parliament every year. It should detail the physical and financial performance of the Railways. It will make railways more accountable and transparent.

Fourth, establish a regulator and moderate charges like the amount for the maintenance of tracks and stations. This will help in attracting more investment in railways.

Fifth, As a part of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat‘, 2,000 km of rail network will be brought under ‘Kavach‘, which is an indigenously developed anti-collision system with world-class technology to prevent accidents. Kavach will help railways to achieve its goal of zero accidents. In the next 3 years, Indian Railways is slated to introduce 400 new-generation and high energy efficient ‘Vande Bharat‘ high speed trains with focus to add value to passenger riding experience. Focus should be fast execution of these initiatives.

Conclusion

Railways is considered as ‘Lifeline of India’ for its multifaceted and multidimensional contribution. Therefore prudent reforms in the sector are imperative for enhancing people’s capabilities, choices and quality of life.

Source: Kurukshetra May 2022, Indian Railways

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