It appears that problems for railways, be it technical or financial, just refuse to go away. Central Railway (CR) officials say they are struggling to meet the revenue collection through advertisements. Of the Rs 100 crore target set for the year 2012-13, the CR has just managed to earn Rs 28 crore till date.
The reason for this decline is being attributed to advertisers backing out, citing that the railways is offering poor service in protecting the paid ads in local trains. A senior CR official said, “Forget about achieving the target, we can’t even come close to it. The spaces allotted for ads in the local trains are lying vacant and the ones that currently have ads, have either faded away or have been encroached upon by illegal advertisers.”
The railway charges advertisers varying rates, depending on the placement of the ads. Some of the locations where the ads can be placed in and outside the train, include window side and top panel, vinyl wrapping (outer), luggage rack, grab handle and few other spaces.
Explaining the reason behind CR flagging advertisement space income, a manager of an ad agency said, “Passengers are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate between genuine and fake and misleading ads. This confusion forces commuters to ignore genuine ads.”
Apart from reducing business, the advertisers have stopped filling tenders as well. Pravin Srivastav, director of I P Verma Media Marketing, said, “We want the railways to protect the paid ads from illegal advertisers. When one can paste ads inside coaches for free, then why will any client give us money to paste advertisements there.”
Surprisingly, there is no stringent punishment for any person found pasting illegal ads in trains. Also, there is no provision for suing the advertisers. The only time railway officials initiate action is when persons are caught red-handed, but they are let off after paying a fine of just Rs 250. Senior Deputy Commercial Manager for CR, Atul Rane, said, “We are allotting public tenders, but bidders stay away from applying due to this menace. We do conduct drives from time to time.”
Railways to dig into coffers to put up new route maps
While the railway passengers say they are fed up of complaining to the officials about the missing route maps that were once pasted over the doorframes of local trains, railway officials claim lack of advertisers is to blame for the maps not being there. A CR official said that since ad agencies assume that investing in route maps is a loss-making venture, they do not bid for it despite tenders being floated every six months. He added that the CR is now planning to bear the expenditure. Another official said that if the railways decide to bear the expenditure, then it would have to paste 7,020 route maps in 90 local trains, which will cost the railways Rs 23 lakh. Over 7.24 million people commute via railways WR and CR every day, using its 2,500 services.