Five takeaways from Budget 2014-15

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge presented the interim budget for the months leading up to the general election amidst great uproar over the Telangana issue. This is the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s last budget ahead of general elections in May 2014.

Usually, new trains are announced while train fares and freight rates are tweaked. This year, things have been a bit different.

Here are five key takeaways:

1)      Shortest budget speech: In every election year, an interim budget is presented. It is a smaller version of the usual full budget. This is called the interim budget, as it only accounts for finances until the election. This holds true for the railways too. As a result, it is not surprising that the budget speech was shorter than usual. However, with the Lok Sabha being adjourned over the issue over the creation of a separate state of Telangana, the budget speech had to be cut further short.

2)      FY13-14 performance: The railway budget shows that its financial performance worsened in the fiscal year. The operating ratio, which compares operating expenses as a percentage of total revenue, rose to 90.2% from the previous target of 87.8%. This shows that expenses have increase in comparison with revenues. Railways also increased total expenses for the FY2013-14 by Rs 560 crore. According to a separate official document seen by DNA, a daily newspaper, Railways has not met its revenue targets. The revenue is Rs 10,000 crore less than targeted, the paper reported. This is additional burden on the government’s finances. However, it expects to earn more than initially estimated from commercial transportation of goods.

3)      FY14-15 expenses and revenue: The ministry expects that it will earn Rs 45,255 crore from passenger ticket fares and Rs 1.05 lakh crore from transportation of goods. Rs 9,700 crore is expected to come from other avenues. All this is expected to help fund expenses worth Rs 1.1 lakh crore.

4)      Rate hikes: There were no significant changes in passenger ticket rates as well as freight tariffs – the amount charged to transport goods. This is because the interim budget predominantly consists of the Vote of Account (VOA). It deals with reporting the financial performance of the railways as an industry in the fiscal year 2013-14 and seeking an approval for expenses. No significant changes in rates are allowed because it would give the current government an upper hand in wooing voters.

5)      New routes and trains: The railway budget announced 17 premium, 38 express, and 10 new passenger trains. It also 7 electric trains for shorter journeys. It also said that surveys will be conducted for 19 new lines and the doubling of 5 other routes in the next fiscal.

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