The celebrations for the first air-conditioned local train, set to operate on the trans-harbour line beginning April 16, may have already begun, but the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) isn’t losing track of the bigger picture. The MRVC, a joint venture of the state government and the Indian Railways, which is responsible for the improvement of infrastructure of the Mumbai suburban railway system, has cautioned that a fare hike is the only way to sustain future projects and tide over mounting losses.
Few hikes have been enforced over the past decade to cushion the losses. Representational pic
Pointing out that the annual losses of the suburban train system have jumped 119 times over the past decade, it says multiple air-conditioned trains coupled with improvements in railway infrastructure will need an expenditure of nearly Rs 35,000 crore — an impossible feat under the current scenario.
In 2014-15, the Central and Western Railways spent Rs 3,067 crore on the operations of local trains, the maintenance of the trains, tracks and station areas, and provision of amenities on railway premises. Together, though, they earned a measly R1,641 crore through advertising and ticket sales, racking up losses of Rs 1,426 crore.
Ten years ago, the railways’ losses stood at a mere Rs 12 crore. Since 2004-05, the losses have jumped drastically. In 2008-09, they touched Rs 329 crore and reached Rs 1,106 crore in 2013-14.
Sources say few hikes, barring the surcharge for implementation of the Mumbai Urban Transport Projects (MUTP), have been enforced over the past decade to cushion the losses.
“Future projects under MUTP will not be financially sustainable and viable unless there is an increase in fares. Moreover, they won’t even get sanctioned as they will result in losses,” warns Prabhat Sahai, chairman and managing director of MRVC.
At present, MUTP-3, worth Rs 10,085 crore, is being executed by the Indian Railways and the MRVC. Projects like a communications-based train control system (CBTC), worth Rs 4,082 crore, on the CST-Panvel corridor of the Harbour line, expansion of the railway network all the way till Alibaug and Pen, elevated corridors on the Kurla-Bhiwandi stretch, AC trains with the CBTC system on both CR and WR, and expansion of the 3rd and 4th lines on Kalyan-Karjat/Kasara to segregate long distance and suburban trains are also in the pipeline.