Indian Railways is planning to roll out the first batch of 10 Vande Bharat sleeper class trains, starting in March. The initial routes are expected to be Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah, with trial runs likely to commence in April. 

The Vande Bharat sleeper train sets under development are high-speed, long-distance, electric multiple units. They are expected to be faster than Rajdhanis. These trains will feature sleeping berths, both AC and non-AC coaches (ranging from 16 to 20 coaches), and other facilities, primarily designed for overnight journey routes.

Short-distance Vande Bharat trains with chair cars are already operational, while the possibility of Vande Bharat Metro is under consideration. Prototypes of the latter are expected to be rolled out soon.

Orders for the first set of Vande Bharat sleeper train prototypes have been placed with Integral Coach Factory at Chennai. 

“Starting March, there will be a rollout of Vande Bharat sleeper trains. In total, 10 trains will be rolled out in a phased manner. These are prototypes,” said Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

“Vande Bharat along with Amrit Bharat (trains on push-pull technology) and Namo-Bharat (rapid rail transit system) are transforming the way people travel,” he added. 

Two other coach-making units of the Railways, Modern Coach Factory (Rae Bareilly) and Rail Coach Factory (Kapurthala), are also said to be developing Vande Bharat sleeper trains as well as the Vande metros. 

Nearly 26,000 kms of new tracks have been added recently with over 20 per cent of this (5,500 kms) being added in FY24 only. 

Construction of another 40,000 km of tracks is underway over the next 7-8 years, as the three proposed freight corridor projects take shape. 

Own cash flows

The Railways have targeted an operating ratio of 98 per cent in FY25, as against the existing operating ratio of 98.25 per cent. 

Operating ratio is an indicator of financial health and means that, to earn every ₹100, the Railways end up spending at least ₹98.

At present, Railways are paying pensions and other statutory obligations through its own cash. Earnings have also gone up over the last couple of years, Vaishnaw said. 

The Railway Budget pegs the appropriation for Pension Fund in FY25 at ₹67,100 crore, up from ₹62,200 crore of FY24’s revised estimates. 

Revenue for Railways, as per the Interim Budget documents, stood at ₹1,52,734 crore, as per the Revised Estimates of FY24, up 1 per cent over the Budget Estimates of ₹1,51,677 crore. Earnings increased by around 25 per cent y-o-yfrom ₹1,21,238 crore. 

The projected revenue receipt in FY25 is expected to be ₹1,81,394 crore, up nearly 20 per cent over FY24 estimates. 

Railways have proposed an outlay of ₹2,55,393 crore for FY25, of which ₹3,393 crore is the revenue expenditure outlay, and ₹2,52,000 crore is for capital expenditure.