The Railways will meet its operating expenditure from its earnings despite the coronavirus pandemic, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said on Saturday, assessing a year that saw the national transporter scale down its passenger services to an unprecedented level to contain the spread of the virus. Addressing a Year-ender press meet, Yadav said several expenditure-control measures and freight revenue earnings will help compensate for the losses in the passenger segment.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Railways' passenger revenue has come down to just Rs 4,600 crore this year compared to Rs 53,000 crore last year, a slide of 87 per cent. Yadav said the Railways expects an increase in freight loading revenue on account of enhanced transportation of non-traditional commodities like food grain and fertilisers.
"The Railways has so far spent 12 per cent less than last year. We have controlled our expenditure and since few trains are operational we are saving on fuel and inventory. Despite COVID-19, we will meet our operating expenditure from our revenue. "We have almost surpassed both freight loading and freight revenue of last year. So, this year's freight revenue would be more than last year's," he said.
Yadav also said the Railways biggest achievements this year was that it managed to maintain the supply line of essential commodities, ferried more than 60 lakh migrant workers home in Shramik Special trains and also managed to convert challenges into opportunities by clearing the backlog of all maintenance and safety works.
Speaking on the bullet train project, Yadav said the Maharashtra government has assured the Railways that the remaining land will be provided for the project in the next four months.
"Once that is done, we can start work on the entire line and then bullet train from both the states can be commissioned together. We will get the full picture over the next four months and then decide if the commissioning will be done in phases or at once. "However, if the Maharashtra land acquisition is delayed, a 325-km stretch till Vapi will be commissioned. The decision will be taken in four months," he said.
So far, 68 per cent of the land identified for the project has been acquired. Regular mail, express, passenger and suburban services were suspended from March 25 when a nationwide lockdown came into effect to contain the spread of coronavirus. The Railways gradually started to reopen when it announced some Shramik Special trains from May 1 and some special trains later on. A majority of trains are still not in operation.