Railways’ earnings hit by unrealistic targets

Indian Railways (IR) failed to hit the targeted revenue earning in July. One major reason for this had been the poor show by the zonal railways on passenger earning front.

None of the 16 zonal railways could achieve the passenger traffic revenue targeted for the month, the shortfall from the target being more than 20 per cent.

Further inquiries revealed that the picture is not very different for first four months of the current fiscal, that is from April to July.

During the period, IR’s total earning amounted Rs 44,221.96 crore against the targeted Rs 45,463.03 crore. In terms of percentage, the drop might not appear as significant, around 2.73 per cent, but in terms of actual amount, it was Rs 1,241.07 crore — not too small a figure. This, it is feared, might impact some of the railway projects as the investment decisions are often taken on the basis of projected earnings.

Again, none of the 16 zonal railways could achieve the passenger earning target set for the four-month period, when the actual total earning from passenger traffic was Rs 11,596.77 crore as compared to the target of Rs 13,684.18 crore, which is a drop of 15.25 per cent.

The shortfall, thus, was more than Rs 2,000 crore. In other words, the shortfall from the passenger earning target was made up by earnings on other heads, particularly freight earning.

Freight earnings rise

In fact, the earnings from goods (freight) during first four months of the current fiscal amounted to Rs 30,492.06 crore, registering an increase of Rs 676.67 crore or a 2.27 per cent growth over Rs 29,815.39 crore targeted for the period.

Similarly, IR’s other coaching earnings (earnings from parcels and luggage carried on passenger trains), too, posted 18.07 per cent growth at Rs 1,307.83 crore (from Rs 1107.63 crore) or an increase of Rs 200.20 crore. But sundry earnings during the period posted a shortfall of 3.57 per cent (Rs 30.53 crore) at Rs 825.30 crore against the target of Rs 855.83 crore.

This has raised eyebrows in various quarters.

At a time when it is almost impossible to get instant reservation in any long-distance train across the country at any time of the year, IR’s failure to achieve the targeted passenger earnings surprises many.

One explanation being given is the impact of current economic slowdown. In other words, during the period fewer people travelled by train than targeted because of the economic downturn. However, the argument does not appear convincing. There has been no drop in the long list of waitlisted passengers for long-distance trains.

More importantly, the growth in freight earnings, no matter however small, only confirms that the impact of economic slowdown may not be as serious as it is made out to be. Nine out of the 16 zonal railways exceeded their respective freight earning targets set for the period.

Northern Railway exceeded the target by Rs 440.71 crore, followed by East Coast Railway (exceeded by Rs 387.79 crore), South Eastern Railway (Rs 175.49 crore), East Central Railway (Rs 153.98 crore), Southern Railway (Rs 101.09 crore), North Central Railway (Rs 75.94 crore), Western Railway (Rs 42.65 crore), North Eastern Railway (Rs 12.34 crore) and West Central Railway (Rs 9.66 crore).

Ambitious targets

The real reasons may be different. Railway sources say it could be the setting of targets for passenger earnings at unrealistically high levels which are difficult to achieve but good enough to satisfy the politicians and others who, the mandarins in the Rail Board felt, must be kept happy with ambitious figures. They say the targets are fixed unilaterally by the Board without any prior discussion with the zonal railways.

This year many of these railways did draw the attention of the Board as early as in March, soon after the Rail Budget was announced and the targets were fixed. The zonal railways, it is pointed out, might not have achieved the targets but, in most cases, exceeded the performance in the corresponding period of last year.

Second, which is important, is the prevalence of suburban traffic and poor earnings from it. The number of passengers using suburban services, particularly in metros, is many times more than those travelling in long-distance trains and yet the suburban services leave a big hole in railway coffers. The services are heavily subsidised and used by daily commuters many of whom, it is feared, travel without tickets. There have been attempts to make these passengers pay through the introduction of several attractive schemes but not with much success. There may be various other sources of leakages. For example, the jurisdiction of suburban service often extends much beyond the suburban area.



Railway expo displays rare photographs

How many of us knew train wagons were pushed by elephants or bullocks-driven trains were tried in Indian Railways once upon a time?

Seeing is believing. Collection of over 200 rare photographs depicting the Indian Railway’s journey from scratch to becoming the world’s largest railway network are on the display at Railway Stadium here.

Bullock train was operational in the first narrow gauge railway from Dabhoi to Miyagam in Gujarat in 1860. Similarly, Patiala Monorail powered by oxen and army mules on Sirhind — Morinda section was opened in 1907. Even Indian Railways had occasionally used elephants for pushing odd wagons in small goods sheds. All these unique events have found place in the exhibition.

In absence of modern technologies, impressive railway structures were erected by the Indian Railways across the country in pre and post independence era. The historic photograph of the first passenger train which was run from Boribunder to Thane covering a distance of 34 kms carrying 400 passengers is catching attention of visitors.

The photograph, the lone photograph that captured the historic moment, was taken by Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy about 160 years ago on April 16, 1853.

The photo exhibition showcasing the evolution and rare moments of the railway journey was inaugurated by Indra Ghosh, General Manager, East Coast Railway at Railway Stadium, Mancheswar on Tuesday. To commemorate 160 years of Indian Railways, the photo exhibition is put up across the country. The exhibition would move to Kolkata in its next halt.

“This is also a rare opportunity for people of Odisha to peek into the journey of Indian Railways which has been brilliantly showcased in the exhibition,” said East Coast Railway Chief Public Relation Officer J.P. Mishra. Schoolchildren are thronging the Railway Stadium for the show.

The exhibition has also showcased Odisha’s share of history in the Indian Railways. Photographs of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru being received at Bhadrak station and rare picture of Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, at Jharsuguda railway station are also displayed.

Some of the often flashed photographs such as overloaded trains during time of partition and train journey of Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders during freedom struggle were also attracting the attention of visitors. Besides, lesser known activities such as persons (panipades) assigned to supply drinking water to passengers of different religions and separate tea stalls meant for Hindu and Muslim passengers also figured in the photographs hung in Railway Stadium.

Bullock train was operational in the first narrow gauge track from Dabhoi to Miyagam in Gujarat in 1860.


Railway workshop to repair LHB coaches

The Carriage Repair Workshop (CRW) of East Coast Railway at Mancheswar is set to take up maintenance and repair needs of important long distance trains which are fast switching to the Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB) coaches.

This year only, the workshop achieved the capability to maintain LHB coaches which are modern, fire-retardant in nature, do not capsize during mishaps and have a longer shelf life. It was in May that one rake of Rajdhani Express was maintained by the workshop for the fist time.

In next few months, the entire rakes of Rajdhani and Duronto trains are targeted to be maintained at Mancheswar and need not be sent to far-off workshops. This will help better availability of coaches and problems can be better monitored too, Chief Workshop Manager of CRW SK Pankaj told mediapersons here on Wednesday.

He said ` 38 crore had been sanctioned by Railway Board to accommodate special facilities for maintenance of LHB coaches at the CRW and it has taken rapid strides. Indian Railways is fast switching over to LHB design steel shell and integral coach factory (ICF) bogie with air spring.

Earlier, these coaches were being repaired in West Bengal, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Now complete overhauling of bogies, air brake system and roof mounted air-conditioning system including poly-urethane paintings, interior and renewal of berths of LHB coaches have been achieved and sent for passenger carrying.

Pankaj said the workshop is also targeting to achieve a capacity augmentation from the 100 periodic overhauls (POH) of coaches per month to 150 POH per month by next year.

The capacity augmentation, sanctioned by Railway Board in 2008-09 at an estimated ` 25 crore, would enable the workshop to repair upto 150 coaches per month. The workshop achieved a record of highest ever outturn of 134 coaches in April 2013.

The Mancheswar workshop under ECoR would celebrate three decades of its operation in December this year. The first off POH coach was turned out on December 31, 1983. For capacity expansion, procurement of machinery and civil construction work is under advance stage. The CRW is spread over 314 acres of land with its workshop occupying 121 acres.

The workshop had started POH of hybrid coaches in February 2012 with Duronto Express. It is also developing infrastructure for supply of wagons and locomotive wheels to divisions.

Pankaj said a work order has already been sanctioned at the cost of Rs 57.7 lakh to develop facility for freight wheels.


Freight legacy of Bengal Nagpur Railway

On May 17, over 100 railway officers, some retired, mostly serving, assembled at the magnificent building of South Eastern Railway on the bank of the Hooghly river in Kolkata. The officers had several things in common: they were all from IRTS (Indian Railway Traffic Service) stream, had served the undivided South Eastern Railway (SER) and some even its predecessor Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) and all of them are emotionally attached to the glorious past of BNR/SER. The oldest among those present was nonagenarian Peter Impett, a 1948 batch officer.

There was a prelude to it. While through the freight information papers on January 21, G.K. Mohanty, Chief Operations Manager (COM) of SER, was pleasantly surprised to note that the previous day, the three zonal railways — SER, East Coast Railway (ECoR) and South East Central Railway (SECR) — each had loaded more than 6,000 eight-wheeler wagons. In other words, these three zonal railways together, all parts of undivided SER, had handled more than 18,000 (8W) wagons, which, he felt, called for celebration. Mohanty called his counterparts, B.K. Joshi in SECR and G.D. Brahma in ECoR and they congratulated each other. All three had served undivided SER.

Blast from the past

From April 1, 2003, two new zonal railways, ECoR with headquarters in Bhubaneswar and SECR ( Bilaspur), came into being. ECoR and SECR were carved out of the areas served by SER, till the previous day. As on March 31, 2003, undivided SER handled a revenue earning freight of 201.6 million tons. After 10 years, SER, ECoR and SECR together handled a little more than 409 mt, comprising 133.41 mt by ECoR, 124.61 mt by SER and 151.57 mt by SECR.

In 1989-90, SER had crossed 100 mt of freight traffic and it took another 13 years to double the figure to reach the level of 201.6 mt in 2002-03. However, the throughput of 409 mt was achieved by SER, ECoR and SECR together in 10 years. The question being asked is: could SER, if it had remained undivided, double the freight throughput in 10 years? Most certainly, was the view of many present at May 17 event. In fact, some felt, SER perhaps could have achieved even more. The single most significant feature of undivided SER’s freight movement was that over 80 per cent of its traffic originated and terminated within its own system.

To many, SER is still known as BNR which was registered as a company in 1887 with the office in London. T.R. Wynne was the Agent and Chief Engineer in India and Robert Miller the Chairman. By the time, Wynne joined the Railway Board as its Chairman in 1905, BNR was already on a firm footing. Wynne became the Director of Indian Railway Companies in 1908, a position he held till 1914. He came back to BNR in 1914 as its Managing Director and continued till 1939. BNR, taken over by the Government in 1944, became SER in 1955. From 1887 to March 31, 2003, BNR, and its successor SER, strode like a colossus in the country’s rail transportation scene. It was the largest freight loading zonal railway, covering seven States and handling the largest volumes of both coal and iron ore. Till 1976-77, the shares of coal and iron ore in SER’s total traffic volume were more or less the same. In fact, the share of coal was slightly less than that of iron ore. The coal share started rising from 1977-78 onward when thrust was laid on open cast mines as a means to boost coal production. After trifurcation, SER became an iron ore centric zonal railway as the major coal loading areas, which were earlier served by it, came under ECoR and SECR.

To its credit

Both BNR and, subsequently, SER had other attributes not known to many. Visakhapatnam port was constructed by BNR between 1927 and 1933 and operated by it till 1935 and again by BNR/SER for 10 years from 1946 to 1956. The Raipur-Vijayanagram line was opened in December 1931 after the construction of the Titlagarh-Theruvelli section, which complemented the movement of port traffic.

BNR/SER also had the distinction of running two top-class hotels, one at Puri and the other at Ranchi, which no other zonal railway can claim to have. Also, a letter from the agent of BNR to Tata Sons, as early as 1916, only confirms that Tisco’s plant at Jamshedpur (then Kalimati) virtually survived on regular transportation of iron ore, coal and other materials to the plant by BNR.

Yet, BNR lost its identity immediately after Independence, when the country’s railway system was reorganised. N. Gopal Swami Iyengar, the then Minister of Railways, brought BNR under Eastern Railway, which was formed in April 1952. However, it was soon felt that BNR must have a separate identity as before. Thus, SER was born in August 1955.

SER has many firsts to its credit and these include introduction of special stock circuit and internal circuit, CC+2,long haul rakes, engine on load, CC rakes and new design wagons, among others.



ECoR meet to prevent death on tracks

The engineers of East Coast Railway have decided to hold deliberations on how elephant deaths on tracks and accidents at level crossings can be reduced. At the 11th zonal executive meeting of East Coast Railway Engineers Association (ECoREA) held here on Sunday, the association decided to holds its 5th annual general meeting (AGM) on May 5 during which a safety seminar on “Role of Engineers on Efficient & Safe Operation of Railway Systems” will be organised. A discussion to reduce the deaths of elephants and accidents at level crossings will also be initiated to mark the occasion.


Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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ECoR SMS service for info on Bills & Purchase orders

New Delhi, Feb 11 (PTI) In a step aimed at bringing in transparency in transactions involving suppliers and contractors, a key Railway zone today launched an ‘SMS alert service’.

The innovative step has been rolled out by East Coast Railway, one of the highest earning rail zones in the country with high volume of freight traffic.

Railway sources said the move will be useful for all the vendors, suppliers and contractors, who otherwise would have had to physically verify the transactions.

The service was launched today by ECoR general manager A K Vohra.

The SMS alerts will be generated electronically and the customers would be informed about their bills and purchase orders instantly, sources said.

The move comes as Railways have already made its tendering process online after complaints of irregularities.


Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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Railway Tender Procurement goes e – way

BHUBANESWAR, Jan. 30: The e-procurement system, aimed at improving transparency and reducing costs, was inaugurated by railway board chairman Mr KC Jena here recently.
The east coast railway stores department purchases around Rs 750 crore materials every year and this system will further improve transparency and productivity of the railway, Mr Jena said.
The e-procurement platform to ECoR has been provided by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) who has been entrusted. The new system will bring in benefits in terms of cost savings due to improved competition, improved internal efficiency ~ the procurement cycle will be further compressed by around 30 days, improved transparency in tendering process, and reduction in physical interface between government staff and contractor, railway sources said.
The contractors can now bid and witness the tender opening and see the bids of other tenders in their office or at home.
According to an estimate, the saving will be in the orders of lakh of rupees to the bidder for each tender case. To take advantage of this system, prospective suppliers should register themselves with IREPS (Indian Railways E-Procurement System) and for that they can visit http://www.ireps.gov.in, railway sources said.