The Minister of Railways, Dinesh Trivedi, presented the Railways Budget 2012 to Parliament on 14th March. While commenting on the financial position of Railways, the Minister said that ‘the Indian Railways are passing through a difficult phase’. The Operating Ratio for the closing year is now estimated to equal 95%. This is significantly higher than the 91.1% figure budgeted last year.
Operating Ratio is a metric that compares operating expenses to revenues. A higher ratio indicates lower ability to generate surplus.
Surplus is used for capital investments such as laying of new lines, deploying more coaches etc. Therefore, a smaller surplus affects the Railway’s capability to make such investments.
Budget v/s Revised estimates 2011-12
Budget 2011-12 had estimated the performance of Railways for the financial year. Revised estimates have now been submitted. Taken together, these two figures help in comparing actual performance against targets. Some observations are enumerated below:
- Total receipts decreased by Rs 2,746 crore.
- Total expenditure increased by Rs 2,102 crore.
- Operating Ratio increased from 91.1% to 95%. This implies a decrease in surplus.
- Appropriations to the ‘Development Fund’ and the ‘Capital Fund’ decreased from Rs 5,258 crore to Rs 1,492 crore (a decrease of 72%). The ‘Development Fund’ finances expenditure such as passenger amenities; the ‘Capital Fund’ is used for capital augmentation such as laying of new lines.
Budget estimates 2012-13
In 2012-13, Railways plan to improve Operating Ratio to 84.9% and to increase surplus to Rs 15,557 crore. This is more than 10 times the surplus generated in 2011-12 (Revised Estimates).
The effective increase in freight rates is estimated to average 23%. During this time, passenger fares are also estimated to increase by an effective average rate of 19%. 
Performance during the 11th Plan
Under the 11th Five Year Plan, the total plan expenditure for Railways had been approved at Rs 2,33,289 crore.
The Outcome Budget shows that the actual expenditure is only likely to be Rs 1,92,291 crore. Thus, expenditure will fall short by Rs 40,998 crore. This gaps exists despite a significant increase in the Gross Budgetary Support approved by Parliament.
Plan expenditure during 2007-12 (In Rs Crore)
|Gross Budgetary Support||
|Extra Budgetary Support||
The Standing Committee on Railways, in its 11th report presented in August 2011, had sought an explanation from the Ministry.
According to the Ministry, lower mobilization of internal resources and lack of extra budgetary support are the main reasons for the shortfall. Internal resource mobilization has been low because of (i) impact of the 6th Pay Commission; and (ii) slow growth in freight earnings due to the economic slowdown. Extra budgetary resources have been low due to non-materialization of funds through the Public-Private Partnership route.
Proposals for the 12th Plan
Two recent committees – Kakodkar Committee on Railway Safety and the Pitroda Committee on Railway Modernization – have called for large investments in the next five years. The Kakodkar Committee has recommended an investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in the next five years to improve safety; the Pitroda Committee has recommended an expenditure of Rs 3,96,000 crore in the next five years on modernization.
The Railway sub-group of the 12th Five Year Plan has also estimated a requirement of Rs 4,42,744 crore for various other investments proposed to be undertaken during the Plan period. 
All three groups have called for significant investments in infrastructure augmentation in the next five years.
Budget proposals 2012-13
According to the Minister’s speech, the Annual Plan outlay for the year 2012-13 has been set at Rs 60,100 crore. The plan would be financed through:
- Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 24,000 crore
- Railway Safety Fund of Rs 2,000 crore
- Internal Resources of Rs 18,050 crore
- Extra Budgetary Resources of Rs 16,050 crore. Of this, Rs 15,000 crore would be borrowed from the market through IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corporation).
What happens now?
The Budget is likely to be discussed in the two Houses within the next few days. Post the discussion, the Ministry’s proposals will be put to vote. Once passed, the Ministry can put its proposals into action.
For more details on the Railway Budget, including the projects proposed this year and the status of proposals made last year, please see our analysis here.
To understand some of the challenges faced by the Indian Railways, see our blog post from last year.
 The ‘effective average fare’ has been calculated by dividing the total income from the segment (freight/ passenger) by the total traffic (in NTKM/ PKM). This would vary with changes in fares as well as the usage by different categories of users (including the proportion of tickets booked through Tatkal).
 Source: Report of the Expert Group on Railway Modernization (Chairman: Sam Pitroda)