New Delhi: Last week’s passenger fare increase, the first across-the-board hike in a decade, may have been unpopular but it gave the Indian Railways a desperately needed financial breather. However, the country’s state-run monopoly needs more to get anywhere close to sound financial health. Revenue has always failed to keep pace with mounting expenses in an unwinnable battle with the populism of successive governments that have been petrified of the political cost of raising passenger fares. That has meant freight charges have had to be increased over the past few years to the level where rail has become uncompetitive with road. Indian Railways has lost traffic supremacy to trucks and seen its coffers deplete because of increasing passenger segment losses and the inability to meet freight targets. Capacity expansion and infrastructure creation have meanwhile suffered due to the lack of adequate investment. The Sam Pitroda committee estimates that the Indian Railways needs Rs.560,000 crore in the next five years for modernisation. Mint takes a look at the health of the Indian Railways ahead of the Railway budget next month.