(Times of India dt 13-4-2017)
Experts say senior offi cials of Southern Railway , which earns more by carrying passengers than freight, have to intervene immediately in various policy decisions and implementation of plans to stop it from speeding in the opposite direction of the rail ways' 16 other zones, which together added 70 million passengers in fiscal 2016-17.
The primary reason for the drop in passengers in Southern Railway is a gradual decrease in services, especially special trains, former Railway Board member Abraham Jacob said. “Officials have to operate as many passenger services as possible with the available infrastructure and coaches,“ said Jacob, Southern Railway chief operations manager till 2008. “We created enormous line capacity, especially on the south broad gauge [Chennai-Madurai-Kanyakumari] route, which is not being utilised properly despite burgeoning demand.“
Passenger associations in central and southern Tamil Nadu and in Kerala have repeatedly demanded more trains, pointing out that oper ators of costly long-distance buses were capitalising on the situation. The zone operated 1,384 specials in 2015-16; a statement on Tuesday said this figure dropped to 1,298 in 2016-17. Southern Railway operates specials for its convenience, not for maximum passenger occupation, a senior railway official said.
Officials said there was a Railway Board embargo on running specials in the first six months of 2016-17 because all were not making a profit.“Since the focus is on earnings and not passenger numbers, most special trains are Suvidha specials, which have fares up to five times the base fare without any value addition in service,“ Jacob said, adding that this led people to fly or travel by bus.
Line capacity and number of terminals should increase to operate more trains, an official said.
(Times of India Chennai dt 12-4-2017)