Derailed by lockdown, Railways sees April revenue tumble by ₹10,000 crore

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on May 19, 2020

File photo   -  PTI

The Railways registered earnings of ₹5,247.25 crore for April, the first full month after the nationwide lockdown was imposed. This was approximately ₹10,000 crore lower than the ₹15,378.45 crore seen in April 2019, Railway data show.

The revenue from the freight segment stood at ₹6,016.33 crore, reflecting a 41 per cent drop against the ₹10,285.79 crore seen in the same period last fiscal.

Cargo loading hit

Though there were no curbs on rail freight movement during the lockdown, there was a drop in loading of cargo due to various reasons. “The demand for power collapsed, leading to a drop in coal production, which in turn led to a drop in coal loading,” a Railway official explained to BusinessLine.

“Construction stopped, prompting a drop in demand for cement movement. Automobile makers (like Maruti and Tata Motors) did not sell any vehicle, which in turn led to a drop in demand for steel movement. And, as steel factories (including SAIL, RINL and Tata Steel) stared at unsold stocks, there was a drop in demand for iron ore movement to those factories.”

And though freight trains were running, discharging the load was hindered, leading to more time for detention of rakes.

“Open rakes which loaded coal did not face much difficulty in loading and unloading, as they use equipment,” said another official. “But there were challenges in labour availability and, even if labourers were available, there were challenges in moving labourers to goods sheds. This led to challenges in loading and unloading sacks and packets from covered wagons, which are required to move cement, fertiliser and foodgrain.”

While the Railways pretty much scraped the coal stock from railheads, movement from coal mines stopped.

Increase in free time

To deal with these challenges, the Railways decided to increase the free time provided to customers; this meant its customers did not have to pay extra for parking their cargo for longer than the scheduled time.

State consumer departments moved a lot of Amul products, vegetable oil, rice and sugar, for which labour movement was eased. Thankfully, the situation improved in May, added another official.

Passengers category

Not running any passenger train in a month should ideally result in zero revenues in that segment for Railways. However, it curiously saw an outgo of ₹489 crore last month, against an earnings of ₹4,445 crore in April 2019. This, officials told BusinessLine, could be largely attributed to outgo of money on account of train and ticket cancellations.

Several trains were cancelled to break the chain of infection.

Within passenger bookings, the net outgo was largely due to money lost from cancellation of reserved ticket bookings. Tickets can be booked up 120 days in advance.

Published on May 19, 2020

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