COVID: Indian Railways sees 75% fall in passenger revenue

Indian Railways is on track to post a decline of almost 75% in its revenue for the financial year that ended last month, according to data from the ministry of railways, Government of India.

For the first 11 months of the financial year (Apr 2020 to Feb 2021), the total passenger revenue fell by three quarters to Rs 12,409 c this year from Rs 48,809 cr for the corresponding period of the last financial year (2019-20).

Indian Railways first suspended regular train services from 23 March 2020 in response to a call for a national lockdown by the central government to arrest the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.

However, limited number of trains were started after a couple of months in the form of ‘worker specials’ or shramik specials to cater to those returning to their villages from the big cities.

The fares of these trains were not sold via regular channels but through state governments. The was some controversy after some in the government said it was not charging for these trains.

Now, more than a year after regular train services were first suspended, the operations are yet to come back to normal.

As of February end, the average number of trains operated by Indian Railways is down by around 80%, or just over 2,000 per day against the average of around 13,100 per day before the lockdown.

Out of the nearly 2,000 trains currently in operation, two thirds (1,340) are long-distance mail and express trains, while the remaining (663) are shorter distance, passenger trains.

The highest number of long-distance trains are being operated by Northern Railway (197 per day) and Southern Railway (168), followed by Eastern Railway (116).

The highest number of passenger trains (189) are being operated by Eastern Railway, which operates primarily in West Bengal, and the East Central Railway division (123 trains per day), which caters to mostly to Bihar.

The average fare on most routes have increased during COVID-19 period, primarily because of various categorization of existing trains into ‘COVID special second class’ trains, ‘special trains’, festival specials, passenger specials and so on.

The price of platform tickets too have been increased in some areas.