Rail finances witnessed a slump over the last three years, when the post of railway minister was held by two Trinamool Congress members and their party chief Mamata Banerjee.
The Kolkata-based South Eastern Railways (SER), Eastern Railways (ER) and the Kolkata Metro have emerged as among the most “non-performing” among railway zones. An internal report also brought out a disturbing fact: Last year, the Railways had to take a loan of Rs. 3,000 crore from the finance ministry. Despite that, the public transporter is staring at the prospect of a Rs. 6,300-crore resource gap this year.
“This situation is totally unaffordable to the Railways. The ministry of finance will not extend any further loans to the public transporter,” the document said.
Though the Railways had projected an additional Rs. 2,000 crore in working expenses last year, the public transporter was unable to spend the amount. It finally surrendered Rs. 1,170 crore. “Because of the faulty budgeting, several railway zones will have a throw-forward in the current year and dip into this year's earnings,” the document further said.Faced with a severe fund crunch, the Railways seem to be clutching at straws. At the annual general manager’s conference in August, Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal floated the idea of approaching MPs and MLAs and seeking local area development funds for railway projects. He expressed the hope that around Rs. 1,000-Rs. 1,500 crore could be generated in this manner.
Until July this year, railway earnings had fallen short of their target by Rs. 1,029 crore, and expenditure had overshot the budgeted estimate by Rs. 118 crore — implying a net adverse trend of Rs. 1,147 crore. “If the current trend continues, a plan adjustment of around Rs. 65-70 crore will have to be done for each railway zone,” the document said.
With passenger earnings coming down from Rs. 36,000 crore to Rs. 32, 000 crore due to the partial rollback in passenger fares, the Railways are R285 crore short of meeting targets.
The ER and Kolkata Metro figure prominently in the list of nine railway zones that have failed to meet targets.