Suburban trains: lifeline for passengers, loss for Railways

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New Delhi, Nov 20 (UNI) The suburban train services in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the lifeline for daily commuters in the three metropolises, incurred a staggering operational loss of Rs 837 crore during 2005-06, reveals a parliamentary committee.

Of the combined loss of Rs 837 crore, the Kolkata suburban section alone accounted for as much as Rs 692 crore while the loss for Chennai suburban train system was pegged at Rs 132 crore.

Expressing concern over the huge losses, the Standing Committee on Railways has asked the railway authorities to look into the specific reasons for substantial losses and initiate urgent steps to improve their functioning without imposing additional financial burden on travelling public.

In its report presented in Parliament, the committee pointed out that a scrutiny of information available for the last five years revealed that Kolkata and Chennai suburban sections had been incurring continuous losses year after year.

Only Mumbai suburban section made a profit betwen Rs 26 crore and Rs 51 crore in three out of five years, the report said, pointing out that the Metro Railway of Kolkata had also been registering losses in the range of Rs 61 crore to Rs 77 crore.

Further, the punctuality ratio of the Kolkata (between 77.8 and 92.3 per cent) and Mumbai (between 91.8 and 93.9 per cent) suburban sections had been poor during the last three years as compared to 97 per cent and above by other suburban sections.

The committee took note of the steps proposed by the Railways to bring down the operational cost and augment earnings suburban sections, including augmentation of 9-car EMU rakes to 12-car rakes, which will increase capacity of each rake by 30 per cent.

Other proposed measures are conversion from DC/AC traction in Mumbai areas (expected to result in 25 per cent reduction in energy bill), fully exploiting the potential for advertising revenue, commercial exploitation of land in suburban areas, curbing ticketless travel and setting up of ATMs for dispensing tickets.

The committee, headed by CPM member Basudeb Acahria, exuded optimism that ''effective implementation of all these measures in a time-bound manner would result in substantial improvement of the financial results of the suburban sections.'' The panel also suggested that immediate action should be taken to lengthen all suburban section platforms to enable them to handle 12-car rakes.

Observing that the Railways had identified 21 out of the 500 suburban stations to be developed as 'model stations' by March 2008, it said only two suburban stations had been provided with all desirable public amenities.

The panel asked the authorities to initiate steps to ensure that work at the remaining 19 stations are completed within the stipulated timeframe.

UNI

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