The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has exposed major irregularities, compromise and violation of rules in Indian Railways’ management of freight business, providing insight into why the country’s largest goods carrier might be losing freight volumes to other modes of transport.
The auditor’s Performance Audit Report on Management of Goods Trains for 2008-2013 period, placed in Parliament on Friday, suggested railways’ rolling stock procurement for freight was not in line with the required assessment, and railways suffered a 36 per cent shortfall in wagon supply from its production units.
Also, the funds provided for wagon procurement were not utilised in any of the five years, except 2011-12; projects for wagon design were plagued by delays; railways lost Rs 1,635 crore due to delays in inducting 15,865 wagons during the period; and over 32 per cent wagons suffered from average detention time of 24 hours. CAG also observed that more than half the times trains were running at an average speed of less than 20 km per hour.
Further, of the 45,563 wagons initially rejected during 2008-13 by Neutral Train Examiner, 39,853 were subsequently passed locally without being certified as fit by Neutral Control Organisation, and put in service. “This was irregular and in contravention of rules and a compromise with the safe running of freight trains,” CAG said in its report, adding more than 50 per cent of goods trains started late, for want of locomotives and because of a deterioration in efficiency parameters, such as wagon turn round, hot axles, detachment, train parting, spring breakage and poor brake power.
Indian Railways carries more than 35 per cent of the country’s total freight traffic and around two-thirds of its total annual revenue of Rs 1,44,000 crore comes from transportation of goods traffic.
The scathing audit observations by CAG have come at a time when Indian Railways has announced it will join the select club of global railway systems that carry more than one billion tonnes of freight annually.