New Delhi: Chairing the detailed review meeting of railways on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his concern over crippling financial condition of railways and train delays, and directed the Railway Board to take immediate action in this regard.

Handling the portfolio of Railway Ministry after Mamata Banerjee took over as West Bengal Chief Minister, Singh called a meeting with three Ministers of States and the entire railway board.

PM asked several questions and was surprised to note that the ministry which was running in profit was now in huge losses.
The earning target of railways fell short of Rs 444 crore till April this year and the surplus also reduced by Rs 1,549 crore.

Apart from this, revenue generated from additional resources also saw loss of Rs 3,698 crore and pension liabilities increased from Rs 14,500 crore to Rs 16,010 crore.

The major concern was fast diminishing funds of railways under DRF, DF and CF.

The Railway Board tried to inform aggrieved Singh about steps undertaken to increase revenue but failed to do so.

Singh also took stock of the present schemes especially Rae Barelli coach factory, Madhora and Madhepura engine factories, dedicated ferret corridors and world class stations.

Apart from the coach factory, rest of the railway projects are biting the dust and construction of ferret corridor is expected to start next year. There is no progress on developing world class stations.

PM was little relieved over schemes related to Jammu-Kashmir and Sikkim.

The issue of train mishaps especially at railway crossings and train delays were also raised during the meeting which lasted for two hours.

According to sources, Singh said even one mishap tarnished the image of railways and railway crossing mishaps were unacceptable. He maintained that railway over bridges should be constructed to avoid the mishaps near railway crossings.

Singh also expressed his annoyance over train delays. Only 75 percent trains were running on time whereas the ratio should at least be 90 percent.

Southern-Central railway (SCR) zone held a good punctuality record of 96 percent and the worst affected was North-central railway with just 50 percent trains running on time.

Only 64 percent of trains on East-Central and northern railway are running on time.

Before the meeting, three Minister of State, railway board officials and 17 zonal General Managers met to assess the present situation of railways and prepared a strategy to face the Prime Minister.

JPN/Bureau