Railways may ask Finance Ministry to fund its share of Rail Safety Fund

The Ministry of Railways may ask the Finance Ministry to fund its share of the railway safety fund this year as the public utility is staring at an earnings shortfall of at least Rs.10,000 crore in 2017-18, sources said.

With earnings deficit, the Ministry of Railways may find it difficult to contribute its share towards the newly- constituted Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) – a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works, a Ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

The Indian Railways’ income stood at ₹80,519 crore till September compared with Rs.76,405 crore till September last year. However, the actual income was 8.45% lower than the targeted earnings till September this year. The railways had set a target of earning Rs.1.88 lakh crore in 2017-18, against Rs.1.65 lakh crore in 2016-17.

The Finance Ministry is scheduled to meet officials of the Ministry of Railways on November 10 for pre-budget discussions to finalise the revised estimates for 2017-18 and budget estimates for 2018-19.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the setting up a special safety fund with a corpus of more than Rs.1 lakh crore over a period of five years in the 2017-18 Budget. According to the plan, while the Finance Ministry would contribute Rs.15,000 crore annually towards the fund, the Ministry of Railways would fund the balance Rs.5,000 crore every year.

In the first six months of the current financial year, the railways utilised a quarter of the safety fund as it had spent Rs.5,031 crore from the RRSK.

Although the railways’ passenger and goods earnings increased 4.5% and 8.4% respectively till September this year compared with last year, its sundry earnings declined sharply by 35.7% in this period.

Income from non-fare revenues, including land lease, advertising, PSU dividends and catering department, form part of the sundry earnings.

Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal said in an interview to The Hindu last month that the utility was willing to spend unlimited funds on safety, which would be a top priority for him. “In my working, there is no budget for safety. Whatever [fund] is required, we will spend,” he said.

The Finance Ministry has advised the Ministry of Railways to prioritise deploying RRSK funds on areas that reduce chances of human error and ensure training of safety staff.

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