Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Railways are your asset’, ‘Let passengers alight first’, ‘If you happen to see any suspicious bag report it immediately’. Commuters on the Mumbai locals have for long been acquainted with these social messages relayed inside the trains from the public announcement system. Since last April, the Railway authorities started using this medium to make an extra buck by relaying advertisements.

Commuters on the Churchgate-Virar stretch have in the last year listened to sprightly voices telling them about upcoming real estate projects in the northern suburbs or announcing show timings of TV soaps or given a patient hearing to the virtues of a ‘masala’ brand.

The opening of the public announcement system for audio ads has brought in handsome ad revenue for the Railways. The Western Railway Mumbai division has raked in Rs 80 lakh in the current financial year from April 2015 to January 2016.

The Railways gave a five-year contract for operating the audio systems to Mumbai-based firm TG Connect for a licence fee of Rs 60 lakh per annum. The contract value after five years, with a 15 per cent annual escalation amount, comes up to Rs 4.5 crore.

According to the contract, the company can relay ads, social or civic messages and instrumental music of 20-second slots, each for a maximum duration of 60 seconds on around 60 local trains on the western line.

The timers for relaying the announcements are GPS-controlled. There are prescribed time slots for the announcements that are relayed at regular intervals. A triple sequence would comprise an announcement of the arriving station, followed by a social message and then with an advertisement.

The revenue from audio ads is likely to remain constant for the next five years of the contract period as the time slots and duration per announcements have been fixed.

However, posters and hoardings still remain the top revenue grosser for the railways. From April 2015 to January 2016, the Western Railways earned 37 crore from this traditional medium. In addition, they made Rs 2.15 crore from ads on the outer surface of trains, Rs 1 crore from LCD screens, visual displays next to booking windows and display screens, and Rs 61 lakh from the selling the space on the inside of the EMU (electrical multiple units) rakes.

On the Central line, which includes trains on main line (CST to Karjat/Kasara) and harbour line (CST to Panvel/Andheri), there were no advertisements on the audio system for 2015-2016. However, the authorities said an amount of Rs 80 lakh earned from relaying jingles in 2014 was recovered in 2015.

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