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Railways manage well

`The poor want to move up in life and travel by AC just as I, too, want to be PM --Lalu Prasad Yadav ', writes Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 11:47 IST

For some of Lalu Yadav's aides at Rail Bhawan, the inspiration came from Peter Drucker's famous lines: "Great leaders do not do great things; they execute things brilliantly."

In more ways than one, the Drucker dictum explains the story of the Railways' unprecedented financial turnaround. The principle Lalu's team applied was simple: Reduce operational costs; pass on the benefits to consumers.

The formula, they promise, would be replicated this year to cut losses on the passenger side without increasing fares.

But what exactly does the cash-rich Rail have on offer for the aam aadmi? Well, a lot, if it delivers on the promises made in Budget 20062007: Lesser fares, faster travel, better facilities, easy ticketing and reduced waitlists.

Take, for instance, the fully air-conditioned garib raths. Numbering four, these superfast trains would run between Delhi and three other cities - Patna, Mumbai and Chennai besides Saharasa and Amritsar (obviously for the Bihari farm labour head- ed for Punjab).

In economic terms, the raths would take away a frac- tion of Railways cross sub- sidy - the fares, though 25 per cent less than AC III, work- ing out higher than the non AC sleeper the targeted pas- sengers use.

"But it's more about giving self-respect to the poor," sources explained. Moreover, these trains will have chair cars with fare almost equal to non-AC sleeper.

For other categories of the travelling public, there is an 18 per cent across the board fare cut for AC I and 10 per cent for AC II, primarily to keep Railways market share in this era of cheap airfares. And the key here is faster travel time to ensure spare coaches for increasing the average length of 190 long haul trains from 14 to 24 bo gies.

The public's full gain can only be computed on factor ing the upgradation of full fare passengers, the frequent travellers scheme and plans on the anvil for double-deck er AC trains.

Over the next three years, this play on speed, length and occupancy of trains would reduce by 50 per cent the railways Rs 4500 crore loss in passenger business. Add to it the projected the Rs 80 crore earnings each from 4000 ATMs and an equal number of vending ma chines at stations across In dia, not to mention licence fees for waiting halls, retir ing rooms and restaurants that will at once improve services.

Towards people-friendly ticketing, unreserved tickets would be sold three days in advance. To reduce Railways load and generate employ ment, prepaid unreserved ticket terminals will be on of fer to unemployed youth in small towns to take ticketing to the public's doorsteps.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 11:37 IST