India has the fourth-largest railway system in the world, following the US, Russia and China. As of 2019-20, the Indian Railways had 13,169 passenger trains and 8,479 freight trains. As of 2019-20, it had a total route network of 67,956 kms and introduced 153 new passenger train in the same period. Indian Railways has logged the highest ever electrification of sections covering 6,015 Route Kilometer (RKM) in a single year during 2020-21. More than 5 times electrification was achieved during (2014-21) last seven years as compared to during 2007-14. By 2024, Indian railways will be run completely on electricity.
Revenue growth has been strong over the years. Indian Railways’ gross revenue stood at US$ 24.78 billion in FY20. RailTel, a PSU under the Railway Ministry, which provides fast and free Wi-Fi across the Indian Railways network, announced its highest ever consolidated income of Rs. 11,660.05 million (US$ 158.48 million) for FY19-20. This income figure is a growth of 12.3% over the consolidated income of the financial year FY18-19.
Freight earnings in FY21 stood at US$ 16.04 billion. The total passenger revenue April 2020 to February 2021 is Rs. 12,409.49 crores (US$ 1.70 billion) as against the Rs. 48,809.40 crore (US$ 6.7 billlion) for the corresponding period the previous year. Freight remains the major revenue earning segment for the Railways and accounted for 64% of its total revenue in FY20, followed by the passenger segment. The speed of freight trains increased to 44 kmph in FY21 from 24 kmph in FY20.
As of May 2021, the Indian Railways loading stood at 114.8 million tonnes (MT). This was 9.7% higher than 104.6 MT reported in May 2019. In November 2020, India Railways announced that 40% of dedicated freight corridor (DFC) will be opened for traffic by end-FY21, while the entire 2,800 km route will be completed by June 2022.
Passenger traffic reached 8.10 billion and is estimated to reach 12 million by 2031. The freight traffic was at 1,232.64 million tonnes in FY21 and is estimated to stand at 2,024 MT by 2024.
The punctuality performance of Indian Railways for mail and express trains increased to 75.67% during April-December 2019 compared to 68.19% during the same period last year.
Under the Union Budget 2021-22, the government allocated Rs. 110,054.64 crore (US$ 15.19 billion) to the Ministry of Railways. FDI Inflow in railway-related components stood at US$ 1.12 billion from April 2000 to September 2020.
Under the Union Budget 2021-22, the government allotted Rs. 1,803.01 crore (US$ 249.07 million) for gauge conversion, Rs. 3,000 crore (US$ 414.43 million) for doubling tracks, Rs. 6,815.36 crore (US$ 941.51 million) for rolling stock and Rs. 2,448.30 crore (US$ 338.22 million) for signalling and telecom.
The Ministry of Railways plans to monetise assets including Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors after commissioning, induction of 150 modern rakes through PPP, station redevelopment through PPP, railway land parcels, multifunctional complexes (MFC), railway colonies, hill railways and stadiums.
With increasing participation expected from private players, domestic and foreign, due to favourable policy measures, both passenger and freight traffic is expected to grow rapidly over the medium to long term. The Government of India’s focus on infrastructure is a major factor which will accelerate growth of railways. Railways infrastructure plans to invest Rs 50 lakh crore (US$ 715.41 billion) by 2030.
In FY20, 15 critical projects of around 562 kms track length worth Rs 5,622 crore (US$ 797.56 million) were completed, out of which, 13 were commissioned by railways. Railways completed electrification on a total of 5,782 route kms during the same year.
Indian Railways completed eight major capacity enhancement projects by taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown. These projects included three super critical projects with a combined length of 68km, three critical projects with a combined length of 45km, upgradation of the entire 389km railway line from Jhajha in Bihar to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction in Uttar Pradesh and a new 82km port connectivity line to Paradip.
In FY21-22, the Indian Railways announced to complete several projects. The Railway Ministry has identified 56 projects in various railway zones that will be completed in February-March 2021. In April 2021, Indian Railways completed the arch closure of the under-construction Chenab Bridge which is the world’s highest railway bridge. Chenab Bridge is 1315 m long and will be 35 meters higher than Eiffel Tower in Paris. The total cost of the bridge is estimated to be Rs. 1,486 crore (US$ 200.46 million) and the design life of the bridge is said to be 120 years.
As a part of the Railways’ plans to upgrade its network, the Ministry announced that all non-AC sleeper coaches will be replaced by AC coaches for trains running >130 kmph. This move has been taken as a technical necessity for high-speed trains with the bonus of improving passenger experience.
Indian Railways is also looking at other areas of revenue generation such as the following: a) Change in composition of coaches so that it can push the more profitable AC coach travel; b) Additional revenue streams by monetising traffic on its digital booking IRCTC; and c) Disinvesting IRCTC
In May 2021, the Government of India and European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a finance contract for the second tranche of US$ 182.30 million for the Pune Metro Rail project.
In January 2021, Hyundai Motor India Ltd. (HMIL) has announced that it has exported 125 cars to Nepal via the Indian Railways. The export is claimed to be eco-friendly and the first-ever by the company. With this step, the company is aiming to reduce carbon footprint by 20,260 tonnes.
On November 26, 2020, National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) signed an agreement with L&T to design and construct 47% alignment works for Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
In November 2020, Indian Railways’ Rail Coach Factory (RCF), in Kapurthala, rolled out a semi high-speed double-decker coach. Equipped with the modern amenities and design, the coach can run at a top speed of up to 160 km/h.
In February 2021, Indian Railways called for ‘Request for Qualification (RFQ)’ for redeveloping New Delhi railway station under a public-private partnership, with an estimated project cost of Rs. 5,000 crore (US$ 690.75 million).
Railways is leading India’s fight against climate challenge and is taking significant steps towards meeting its ambitious goal of being a net zero carbon emissions organisation by 2030 and meeting India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) targets.
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