The railways has approached the finance ministry, requesting that it be relieved of its pension burden and stating that it is paying Rs 50,000 crore from its earnings towards it annually, a senior official said on Wednesday.

However, this is not the first time that the railways has begged off its pension responsibilities, which eat into its earnings.

“We have approached the finance ministry to consider taking away the railways’ pension responsibilities. 25 per cent of the railways’ earnings go into paying the pensions to 15.5 lakh former employees. We are hoping that it will be done in a graded manner,” Railway Board chairman VK Yadav said.

The impact of the 7th Pay Commission kicking into the salaries and pensions has shot up the input cost of rail operations beyond viable levels, leaving the railways with its worst operating ratio of 98.44 per cent in a decade.

“The operating ratio is a concern. We are under stress as far as the operating ratio is concerned,” Yadav said.

He pointed out that the railways also pays salaries to its 12.5 lakh employees, which takes a major chunk of its earnings.

The Indian Railways recorded an operating ratio of 98.44 per cent in 2017-18, the worst in the last 10 years, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said in its report tabled in Parliament last year.

The operating ratio is a measure of expenditure against revenue and it shows how efficiently the national transporter is operating and how healthy its finances are.

Speaking on the merger of eight services into one IRMS service of the railways, Yadav conceded that there were reservations about the move among the accounts, traffic and personnel cadres.

“However, their objections were clarified,” he said, adding that the group B officers of the railways have, in writing, supported the cadre merger.