Budget 2018: Concerned about safety, govt gives Railways Rs 730 bn

In a signal that the Railways will have to depend on its own earnings to fund its expansion, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cut the budgetary support for the national transporter for the current year by Rs 150 billion. He has provided Rs 531 billion for the next year, which means he is giving about Rs 20 billion lower than what he had provisioned for the current year in the February 2017 Budget.

The current year’s capital expenditure has been cut by Rs 110 billion. The government, however, has drawn up a capital expenditure plan of Rs 1.48 trillion for 2018-19, about 38 per cent of which is being funded from borrowings. The Railways’ borrowing arm, Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC), would raise Rs 285 billion, while another Rs 264 billion would come from Life Insurance Corpora-tion. Another Rs 270 billion is expected from public private partnership projects. The Railways’ internal revenue generation is estimated at Rs 115 billion.

The FM has projected an ambitious 92.8 per cent operating ratio for 2018-19. A reflection of railway efficiency, the ratio represents railway spending over its expenditure. It was earlier estimated at 94.6 per cent for 2017-18, but slipped to 96 per cent in the current year. The railway surplus is projected to be Rs 129.9 billion in 2018-19.

The Railways’ own revenue generation is estimated to increase by 7 per cent to Rs 2,011 billion, of which its core business of transporting goods and passenger would generate 7 per cent higher income of Rs 2,008.40 billion. The railways is banking on a reversal of low growth trend in freight loading and expects to carry 1216 million tonne goods during 2018-19, a 51 million tonne increase over the revised loading target of 1,165 mt. Prior to the current year, the Railways had missed its budgetary target for two years.

Safety, which has been a major area of concern for the Railways, got Rs 730.65 billion for the next year. The total expenditure on this count, including Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) is estimated to be Rs 687.25 billion in the current year. For 2018-19, RRSK will comprise Rs 50 billion from budgetary support, Rs 100 billion from Railway Safety Fund received as the Railways’ share from central road fund and Rs 50 billion from railway revenue.

The FM said there was a significant improvement in the achievement of physical targets by the Railways. “We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network; 4,000 km is targeted for commissioning during 2017-18,” he said in his Budget speech.

Rolling stock including 12,000 wagons, 5,160 coaches and approximately 700 locomotives are being procured during 2018-19. A major programme has been initiated to strengthen infrastructure at the goods sheds and fast track commissioning of private sidings.  

Mumbai’s suburban transport system is being expanded and augmented to add 90 km of double line tracks at a cost of over Rs 110 billion. That apart, 150 km of additional suburban network is being planned at a cost of over Rs 400 billion, including elevated corridors on some sections. A suburban network of approximately 160 km at an estimated cost of Rs 170 billion is being planned to cater to the growth of the Bengaluru metropolis.  

Redevelopment of 600 major railway stations is being taken up by Indian Railway Station Development Co. Ltd. All stations with more than 25,000 footfalls per day will have escalators. “All railway stations and trains will be progressively provided with wi-fi. CCTVs will be provided at all stations and on trains to enhance security of passengers. Modern train-sets with state-of-the-art amenities and features are being designed at the Integral Coach Factory, Perambur. The first such train-set will be commissioned during 2018-19,” said the minister.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel