Amidst political controversy over the planned bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, RTI replies have revealed that the over 40% seats in all the trains running on this sector go vacant. This has understandably also been causing huge losses to the railways.
RTI replies received by Mumbai activist Anil Galgali revealed that only in the past one quarter, the Western Railway’s staggering losses on this sector is nearly Rs 30 crore, or around Rs. 10 crore per month.
“The Indian government is over-enthusiastic and plans to spend more than Rs 1 lakh crore on the Bullet Train project, but it has not done its homework properly,” Galgali was quoted by IANS.
Galgati said that the revelation raised serious questions on the viability of the bullet train project, whenever it came up. Not so long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, had inaugurated the works for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train with much fanfare.
The move has become hugely controversial as Modi’s own ally, the Shiv Sena has opposed the move. The party had asked the PM to forget the bullet train and instead focus on improving the safety standards of the existing train services.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said that the ‘bullet train will be like demonetisation. It will kill everything else including safety.’ He was reacting in response to the stampede that killed at least 26 people in Mumbai in September.
In the RTI replies to Galgati, the Indian Railways also admitted that they had no plans to introduce any new trains on this sector which is already in the red.
Replying to Galgali’s query on seats occupancy on all the trains between the two cities, the WR revealed that in the past three months, 40 percent all seats went vacant on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and 44 percent empty on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route.
In fact, Galgali said that the most popular train, 12009 Shatabdi Express with a capacity of 72,696 seats sold only 36,117 during the July-September period on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route and in the return direction of the total 67,392 seats, only 22,982 were sold.
This train, which once always ran packed in all seasons both ways has now proved to be a loss-maker, and the executive chair car with 7,505 seats was practically deserted with just 1,469 seats booked, plummeting revenues from the estimated Rs 1,45,49,714 to a paltry Rs 26,41,083 during the last quarter.
WR’s Chief Commercial Manager Manjeet Singh said that between July 1-September 30, there are 32 mail/express serving this sector with a total seating capacity of 735,630 seats on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector.
Of these, only 441,795 seats were booked during that period generating a revenue of Rs 30,16,24,623 against the total estimated expected income of Rs 44,29,08,220 – incurring a huge loss of Rs 14,12,83,597 in the past quarter.
Similarly, on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route served by a total of 31 mail/express trains with a seating capacity of 706,446, only 398,002 seats were booked, resulting in a revenue of Rs 26,74,56,982 against the estimated expected income of Rs 42,53,11,471, spelling a massive loss of Rs 15,78,54,489.
The WR provided the data of all the major trains plying on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Mumbai route like the Durantos, Shatabdi Expresses, Lokshakti Express, Gujarat Mail, Bhavnagar Express, Saurashtra Express, Vivek-Bhuj Express and others.
Faced with the vacancies on existing trains, the WR Divisional Engineer, Ahmedabad informed that there was no fresh proposal to introduce any new trains on this sector.
Galgali pointed out that given this current alarming scenario, coupled with growing preference for flights and improved road travel, the Central and Gujarat governments must review the expensive option of the Bullet Train before it becomes a white elephant for the Indian taxpayers.