Western Railway's suburban network, considered the most crowded in the world, for the first time in over a decade has shown a fall in passengers for the financial year that just ended on March 31.
Statistics show that between April 2013 and March 2014, WR's suburban system carried 128.11 crore passengers against 129.49 crore for the same period between 2012 and 2013, a sizable 1.38 crore less. In sheer terms, WR officials said, the drop was around 38,000 passengers every day.
The last time WR's suburban system saw such a worrying fall was in the financial year 2002-03 when passengers dropped by a whopping 3.24 crore.
The drop has meant that WR could not achieve the passenger target of 134.53 crore people set by the railway board by a substantial 6.42 crore passengers. The fall has also meant that WR missed its target revenue for the suburban network — pegged at Rs715.91 crore — by Rs 22.91 crore. It earned just Rs693 crore for the financial year that ended on March 31.
WR's internal analysis of the drop in passengers this year has zeroed in on an unusually high number of people who went for vacation outside Mumbai in May and June last year as the primary cause. The holiday theory seems logical because May and June saw a drastic drop in the renewal of season passes, which, railway officials say, is a sure sign of the fact that a pass holder is out of town.
"The number of season passes getting renewed returned to normal in July, which meant holidaying Mumbaikars had returned to the city," an official said.
The strike by traders opposing the local body tax between May 6 and 21 last year also contributed to the drop, railway analysis stated, and this in turn reduced ticket sales.
"Hopefully, the new financial year should be better in terms of passenger growth as well as revenue," said a senior WR official.
The number game
129.49 crore: Passengers for 2012-13
128.11 crore: Passengers for 2013-14
1.38 crore: Fall in passengers this year
38,000: Daily average loss in passengers
Rs715.91 crore: Revenue target for 2013-14
Rs693 crore: Revenue earned for 2013-14
Rs22.91 crore: Revenue shortfall for 2013-14