Four years of Modi Govt: Piyush Goyal on Railways performance
In interviews with Hindustan Times and Economic Times, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal gave his two pennies on the Indian Railways' performance after four years of the Modi government. Goyal, who is also the Union Minister for Coal, temporarily also holds Finance and Corporate Affairs portfolios, and is considered one of the most important minds in India's policy space. Here's what he said.
Piyush Goyal explains the Railways' 98% operating ratio
Reflecting on the Railways' rather dismal operating ratio of 98% (operational expenses as a percentage of revenue), Goyal said that it was bound to deteriorate given the Rs. 22,000cr burden of the Seventh Pay Commission payouts. He said that the revised payouts under the Seventh Pay Commission guidelines added a direct 12.5% to the Railways' costs.
The Railways' revenue plans and targets
Speaking on plans to increase revenue, Goyal said that the dedicated 3,300km freight corridor being built at a cost of Rs. 80,000cr would give a big push to the Railways' revenue by increasing its goods-carrying capacity. The Railways has a revenue target of Rs. 2 lakh crore this financial year, and wants to double that to Rs. 4 lakh crore by 2025.
How the dedicated freight corridor will increase revenue
"As we add more [goods-carrying] capacity, our freight rates will also come down, which will increase volumes. The speed of trains is also being increased, which will allow us to run more trains. All of it will help us earn more money," explained Goyal.
Railways to invest Rs. 70,000cr in safety-related work
Commenting on the issue of safety, Goyal pointed out that train accidents had decreased by 38% in the current financial year compared to the last one. He added that the Railways' was planning to invest Rs. 70,000cr in safety-related work including track renewal, removal of unmanned level crossings, improving signalling etc. The safety-related work, however, will take some toll on punctuality, Goyal explained.
Railway ministry looking to boost private investment in stations
Goyal also said the redevelopment of 68 stations would be completed by March next year. Additionally, the Railway Ministry is also exploring options to boost private investment in station redevelopment, and has proposed that private parties investing in railway stations be given leases of railway land for commercial exploitation for a fixed period of time.
Infrastructural project implementation has grown manifold since 2014
Goyal also pointed out how infrastructural project implementation had improved. Over 96% of the dedicated freight corridor contracts have been awarded, said Goyal, as opposed to just 20% being completed in 2014. He pointed out that track electrification had grown seven-fold from 610km in 2013-14 to 4,087km in 2017-18. Goyal also said that track renewal proceeds at thrice the earlier speed now.
Bullet trains will boost the economy, says Goyal
Lastly, speaking on whether other bullet train routes were being considered apart from Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Goyal said that the issue of land availability would have to be factored in first. However, he said that bullet train projects would create a huge amount of employment, help PM Modi's 'Make In India' initiative, lead to the development of economic corridors, and boost the economy.