The Minister of Railways, Dinesh Trivedi, presented the Railways Budget 2012 to Parliament on 14th March.  While commenting on the financial position of Railways, the Minister said that 'the Indian Railways are passing through a difficult phase'. The Operating Ratio for the closing year is now estimated to equal 95%. This is significantly higher than the 91.1% figure budgeted last year. Operating Ratio is a metric that compares operating expenses to revenues. A higher ratio indicates lower ability to generate surplus. Surplus is used for capital investments such as laying of new lines, deploying more coaches etc. Therefore, a smaller surplus affects the Railway’s capability to make such investments. Budget v/s Revised estimates 2011-12 Budget 2011-12 had estimated the performance of Railways for the financial year. Revised estimates have now been submitted. Taken together, these two figures help in comparing actual performance against targets. Some observations are enumerated below:

  • Total receipts decreased by Rs 2,746 crore.
  • Total expenditure increased by Rs 2,102 crore.
  • Operating Ratio increased from 91.1% to 95%. This implies a decrease in surplus.
  • Appropriations to the ‘Development Fund’ and the ‘Capital Fund’ decreased from Rs 5,258 crore to Rs 1,492 crore (a decrease of 72%). The ‘Development Fund’ finances expenditure such as passenger amenities; the ‘Capital Fund’ is used for capital augmentation such as laying of new lines.

Budget estimates 2012-13 In 2012-13, Railways plan to improve Operating Ratio to 84.9% and to increase surplus to Rs 15,557 crore. This is more than 10 times the surplus generated in 2011-12 (Revised Estimates). The effective increase in freight rates is estimated to average 23%. During this time, passenger fares are also estimated to increase by an effective average rate of 19%. [1] Infrastructure Performance during the 11th Plan Under the 11th Five Year Plan, the total plan expenditure for Railways had been approved at Rs 2,33,289 crore. The Outcome Budget shows that the actual expenditure is only likely to be Rs 1,92,291 crore. Thus, expenditure will fall short by Rs 40,998 crore. This gaps exists despite a significant increase in the Gross Budgetary Support approved by Parliament. Plan expenditure during 2007-12 (In Rs Crore)


Approved Expenditure

Actual Expenditure

Gross Budgetary Support



Internal Resources



Extra Budgetary Support






The Standing Committee on Railways, in its 11th report presented in August 2011, had sought an explanation from the Ministry. According to the Ministry, lower mobilization of internal resources and lack of extra budgetary support are the main reasons for the shortfall.  Internal resource mobilization has been low because of (i) impact of the 6th Pay Commission; and (ii) slow growth in freight earnings due to the economic slowdown. Extra budgetary resources have been low due to non-materialization of funds through the Public-Private Partnership route. Proposals for the 12th Plan Two recent committees – Kakodkar Committee on Railway Safety and the Pitroda Committee on Railway Modernization – have called for large investments in the next five years. The Kakodkar Committee has recommended an investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in the next five years to improve safety; the Pitroda Committee has recommended an expenditure of Rs 3,96,000 crore in the next five years on modernization. The Railway sub-group of the 12th Five Year Plan has also estimated a requirement of Rs 4,42,744 crore for various other investments proposed to be undertaken during the Plan period. [2] All three groups have called for significant investments in infrastructure augmentation in the next five years. Budget proposals 2012-13 According to the Minister’s speech, the Annual Plan outlay for the year 2012-13 has been set at Rs 60,100 crore. The plan would be financed through:

  • Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 24,000 crore
  • Railway Safety Fund of Rs 2,000 crore
  • Internal Resources of Rs 18,050 crore
  • Extra Budgetary Resources of Rs 16,050 crore. Of this, Rs 15,000 crore would be borrowed from the market through IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corporation).

What happens now? The Budget is likely to be discussed in the two Houses within the next few days.  Post the discussion, the Ministry's proposals will be put to vote.  Once passed, the Ministry can put its proposals into action. For more details on the Railway Budget, including the projects proposed this year and the status of proposals made last year, please see our analysis here. To understand some of the challenges faced by the Indian Railways, see our blog post from last year. Notes: [1] The ‘effective average fare’ has been calculated by dividing the total income from the segment (freight/ passenger) by the total traffic (in NTKM/ PKM).  This would vary with changes in fares as well as the usage by different categories of users (including the proportion of tickets booked through Tatkal). [2] Source: Report of the Expert Group on Railway Modernization (Chairman: Sam Pitroda)

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by Parliament on August 4, 2021.  It amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.  This Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha during the budget session this year in March 2021.  Subsequently, it was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture, which submitted its report on July 22, 2021.

Typically, cities have one civilian airport which provides all aeronautical services in that area.  These services include air traffic management, landing and parking of aircraft, and ground handling services.  This makes airports natural monopolies in the area.  To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.  Hence, the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) was established as an independent body under the 2008 Act to regulate tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services at major airports.  

For the remaining airports, these tariffs are determined by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is a body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.  In addition, AAI leases out airports under the public-private partnership (PPP) model for operation, management, and development.  Before AERA was set up, AAI determined and fixed the aeronautical charges for all airports.  It also prescribed performance standards for all airports and monitored them.  Various committees had noted that AAI performed the role of airport operator as well as the regulator, which resulted in a conflict of interest.

The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.  The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport through a notification.  The Bill adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.  Thus, when a small airport will be clubbed in a group and the group is notified as a major airport, its tariff will be determined by AERA instead of AAI.  Note that AERA will not determine the tariff if such tariff or tariff structures or the amount of development fees has been incorporated in the bidding document, which is the basis for the award of operatorship of that airport.

The amendments under the Bill raise some concerns regarding the grouping of airports and the capacity of the regulator.

  • Grouping of airports: The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that government will club together profit-making and loss-making airports and offer them as a package in PPP mode to the prospective bidders.  This may be a policy decision to revive loss-making airports.  With the passage of the Bill, AERA will treat a group of airports as one entity.  One of the ways in which tariffs may be structured for the grouped entity would be through cross-subsidies.  This would involve compensating loss-making airports with the revenue generated from the profit-making airports.  If such a model is used, it may increase the cost of services to the end-consumers of profit-making airports or could reduce the profitability of such airports.  The experiences from other sectors such as electricity show that cross-subsidisation may lead to pricing problems in long term. 
  • Capacity of the regulator: AERA was created to provide a level playing field in the aviation sector and resolve the conflict of interest that arises with AAI both operating and regulating tariffs at airports.  During the examination of the AERA Bill, 2007 by the Standing Committee, the Ministry of Civil Aviation informed the Committee that AERA should regulate tariff and monitor performance standards only at major airports.  Depending upon future developments in the sector, and as the regulator built its capacity, other functions could be subsequently assigned to the regulator.

As of 2020, there are 125 operational airports in India (includes international airports, customs airports, and civil enclaves).  The number of airports under the purview of AERA increased from 11 in 2007 to 24 in 2019.  For the remaining airports, tariffs are still determined by AAI.  In the last five years (2014 to 2019), air passenger traffic increased from 11.3 crore to 34.9 crore (which is an annual growth rate of 10%).  Till 2030-31, air traffic in the country is expected to continue growing at an average annual rate of 10-11%

Before 2019, an airport with annual passenger traffic of at least 15 lakh was considered a major airport.  In 2019, the AERA Act was amended to increase this threshold to 35 lakh.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 2019 Bill stated that the exponential growth of the aviation sector has put tremendous pressure on AERA, while its resources are limited.  Therefore, if too many airports come under the purview of AERA, it will not be able to perform its functions efficiently.  Consequently, in 2019, the number of airports under the purview of AERA was reduced.  Now, with the passage of the 2021 Bill, AERA will have to again regulate tariffs at more airports as and when notified by the central government.  Thus, the capacity of AERA may be needed to be enhanced for extending its scope to other airports.

Table 1: List of major airports in India (as of June 2019)

























Source: AERA website as accessed on August 2, 2021; PRS.