The Indian Railways saw a 1.1 per cent drop in freight loading and a negative growth of 4.2 per cent in passenger traffic in 2019-2020 as against 2018-2019, the Economic Survey tabled in Parliament on Friday said, attributing the slowdown to the coronavirus pandemic. The pre-Budget survey said that during 2019-20, the Railways carried 12,084 lakh tonnes of goods and ferried 80,857 lakh passengers, making it the world’s largest passenger carrier and the fourth-largest freight carrier.
“Revenue earning freight loading (excluding loading by Konkan Railway) by IR in FY20 was 12,084 lakh tonnes, registering a decrease of 1.1 per cent over FY19. The passenger traffic was 80,857 lakh in FY20, registering a growth of (-) 4.2 per cent over FY19,” the survey said. “Rail freight traffic growth nosedived to (-) 35.3 per cent YoY in April 2020 before rising back sharply to 15.5 per cent YoY in September 2020. The growth momentum continued till December 2020.
“Indian Railways loading was 118.13 million tonnes in December 2020, which is 8.54 per cent higher YoY compared to last year’s loading (108.84 million tonnes) for the same period,” it said. The survey further stated, “It is worth mentioning that a number of concessions/discounts are also being given in Indian Railways to make Railways Freight movement very attractive.” It said the Covid-19 pandemic, the subsequent lockdown and social distancing measures had a significant impact on the contact-intensive services sector.
During the first half of financial year 2020-21, the services sector contracted by almost 16 per cent, it added. “Air passenger traffic, rail freight traffic, port traffic, foreign tourist arrivals, and foreign exchange earnings all contracted sharply following the first lockdown which was announced in March 2020. As the economy gradually entered the unlock phase, most of these indicators showed signs of recovery,” the survey said.
According to the survey, the number of train accidents has come down from 104 in FY17 to 55 in FY20 despite a substantial increase in the traffic volume carried by the Indian Railways during the same period. The survey also took note of the Railways’ special cleanliness campaign under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as part of which it has installed bio-toilets in all its passenger coaches.
On the Railways’ plan to allow private passenger trains on its network, the Economic Survey said, “The government has allowed private players to operate in the Railways through the public, private partnership (PPP) mode under the New India, New Railway initiative.” The initiative is expected to garner an investment of about Rs 30,000 crore from the private sector, it said. The bidding process is expected to be completed by May 2021 and private trains are likely to be introduced in 2023-24.
Last year, the Railways had said it has invited proposals from companies to run 151 modern passenger trains on 109 pairs of routes across the country.