The wheels of change
Trains in India are the most widely used and economical mode of transportation. According to various data, the Railways handles 23 million passengers and three million tonnes of freight every day. For several decades, the transportation behemoth has been facing several challenges such as huge underinvestment, congestion, lack of modernisation, unhygienic platforms and railway tracks, and frequent accidents.
The Railways is also struggling to keep pace with the rising number of passengers and an increase in freight demand. Over the years, several expert committees had made recommendations to improve the Railways’ working. However, the public utility continued to face problems.
In the light of these problems, the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government has articulated its vision for improving infrastructure, increasing railway lines, replacing toilets with bio-toilets to ensure hygiene, enhancing safety, developing bullet trains — a network of high-speed trains that will connect the major metropolitan cities — and creating dedicated freight corridors.
The Indian Railways is gearing for a massive transformation and it is looking beyond traditional options to generate revenue. Under the visionary and pragmatic leadership of Minister Suresh Prabhu, the Railways has shed its tag of being a slow moving behemoth to be a responsive modern organization by bringing in systemic changes.
Unlike his predecessors, Prabhu looks upon the Railways as a commercial enterprise and not as a social welfare institution.
However, at the same time, the Minister is not keen on increasing freight tariffs or passenger fares and instead has planned to generate revenues from sources such as advertising and monetising railway land.
Our Cover Story in this edition is an exclusive and in-depth report on how the Indian Railways has embarked on a mission to redevelop over 400 railway stations across the country. The move will make amenities available at the railway stations on a par with those at modern airports. And at the same time the Railways will commercially develop its surplus land near the station and the air space over the station and from the surplus proceeds of such commercial development it will redevelop the railway stations and also earn a profit on the bargain.
This move of the Railways to generate revenue through non-fare box avenues is indeed an excellent move which will be the transporter’s thrust area in the future. Globally, land monetisation by the Railways has proved a promising area for revenue generation.