Joining ‘billion tonnes’ club could be a tough ask for Railways

The 2012-13 financial year is about to end in a few days, but figures and trends so far don’t seem to suggest that India will break the billion tonnes freight mark, as claimed by both Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Railway Board chairman, and join the select club comprising China, Russia and the U.S.

The Railway Minister had declared in his budget speech that the Railways would achieve the mark in the current financial year by carrying 1,007 million tonnes of freight, and the claim was backed by chairman Vinay Mittal as recently as last week.

In the 11-month period till February, the Railways ferried about 911.53 million tonnes, just about 4.1 million more than the 875.65 million tonnes carried in the corresponding period a year ago. But still it fell short of the 913.58 million tonnes target by 2.05 million tonnes.

Thus the Railways is required to transport at least 88.47 million tonnes in March to reach the billion tonnes mark. But questions remain, given that its performance in February was a matter of concern. It carried just about 83.60 million tonnes last month, less than the 83.76 million tonnes transported in the corresponding month in 2011-12.

To meet the revised target of 1,007 million tonnes the Railways would actually have to transport 95.47 million tonnes this month which might prove to be a tough ask, particularly in light of the poor performance in February, when it fell short of the revised target of 85.68 million tonnes by 2.08 million tonnes or 2.43 per cent less.

Accruals, however, shot up riding on the hike that was affected over a year ago before the presentation of the 2012-13 budget.

For the 11 month period ending February there was a 24 per cent jump from Rs. 61203.42 crore to Rs. 76459.72 crore this year. But in February the rise was lower at 21.95 per cent, with earnings standing at Rs. 7113.09 crore, up from Rs. 5832.69 crore.

The target for the current year is Rs. 85956 crore, and too fulfil it the Railways would require to put in an extra effort to earn about Rs. 9496.38 crore, given that it had just about earned Rs. 7113.09 crore in February.

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