Replay Dinesh Trivedi speech to the new Railway chief
With passenger fares rising from just 24 paise per kilometre to 28 paise between 2005-06 and 2011-12—while passenger services use up 60% of the rail network, they contribute just a third to earnings—it’s not surprising new Railway minister (with additional charge) CP Joshi has said he will discuss the issue of rolling back passenger fares with his bureaucrats before making any commitment; before he was summarily removed from his job by an imperious Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi had hiked passenger fares by 10% across the board, 43% in the case of some suburban trains where the most losses are made. Given the frightening Anil Kakodkar committee on safety, Joshi said his first priority was safety. Apart from saying the Railways needed R1 lakh crore for safety, Kakodkar had said that while even the 60 kg/m rails were stressed, it was “not prudent to use (the existing) 52 kg/m rails”; and, apart from saying anti-collision devices had not been installed for a decade, Kakodkar said 43,000 ICF coaches were “no more safe at the present operational speeds”.
Joshi, in fact, would do well to read Trivedi’s speech, barring the poetic flourishes that is. While even a steep 20% hike in passenger fares will generate only R5,000 crore, the Railways need upward of R14 lakh crore by 2020—this is Trivedi’s figure, internal Railway documents put it at R47 lakh crore. Which is why Trivedi’s budget focused on bringing in more PPP projects—one for the New Delhi railway station was killed by the Railway bureaucracy—including a pilot catering project in collaboration with TajSATS (as happens in the airlines). With 30% of Railway revenues to come from non-traffic services such as restaurants at model Railway stations, Trivedi even planned a Member PPP post in the Railway Board. Given the Railways are more than broke—the vital operating ratio is 95%, leaving precious little for anything, leave alone modernisation—Trivedi’s is the only way to go.