The oil price hike came in as a boon in disguise for Indian Railways. Singed by the increased fares of low cost airlines, the passengers have returned to traveling by a train. Railways minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, aided by a core committee of his OSD Sudhir Kumar and chairman of the Railway Board has had tremendous success in winning back the air travelers.
Garib Rath trains, Lalu’s brainchild, ferry passengers from Delhi to Mumbai for Rs. 600 in air conditioned comfort, while no airline today charges less than Rs. 5,000 for the same journey. Consequently, Railways is already reporting a steady increase in income and the profits are likely to reach new heights this year.
Meanwhile, Lalu is pushing new initiatives to boost income of Railways. His latest is corporatization of individual coaches in trains, where companies are allowed to change the interiors, add more passenger facilities and maintain the coaches independently. In return, these companies can advertise on the coach’s exteriors. So far, Airtel has signed up as the first company to bid for a coach under this scheme, which is likely to turn in a windfall bonanza on the Railways income statement when the financial year ends.