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PPP and FDI rather than fare hikes will largely fund Railways’ modernisation programmes

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Bengal, Bihar and Odisha stay neglected in Modi Government’s first (interim) Rail Budget, which is otherwise forward-looking and based on sound economic thinking

Minister for Railways DV Sadananda Gowda today presented in Parliament the proposals for his ministry’s Budget for the financial year 2014-15. We segregate his speech into two parts: The scenario he has inherited from the previous governments and what he proposes to do to improve upon the prevailing situation.

The backdrop
Railways has been suffering heavily because of time overrun and cost overrun due to poor project management.

Indian Railways runs 12,617 trains to carry over 23 million passengers per day, connecting more than 7,172 stations spread across the subcontinent. It is equivalent to moving the entire population of the Australia. It runs more than 7,421 freight trains, carrying about 3 million tonnes of freight every day. It has achieved the distinction of entering the select club of railways of China, Russia and USA in carrying more than one billion tons of freight. Yet, Indian Railways carries only 31% of the total freight carried in the country by all modes. We have a total track length of 1.16 lakh kilometers; 63,870 coaches; more than 2.4 lakh wagons and 13.1 lakh employees.

There are 23 projects underway in the Northeast, of which 11 are national projects.

In the existing pattern of rail traffic movement, more than 33% of freight trains over the system run empty since return traffic at existing freight rates is not forthcoming.

There are 29 projects running in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana at an estimated cost of Rs 20,680 crore. The special package that the minister announced for these States have been described in the next section.

While there has been incremental growth in parcel earning, there is a huge untapped potential in this segment. At present, most of the parcel business is hindering the movement of passengers on platforms.

Social service obligation rose from 9.4% of Gross Traffic Receipts in 2000-01 to 16.6% in 2010-11. In 2012-13, such obligations stood over Rs 20,000 crore. The total investment, which is the plan outlay under budgetary sources, in the same year, was Rs 35,241 crore. As an amount, the burden of social service obligation is more than half of the size of India’s plan outlay under budgetary sources. An organisation spending an amount equivalent to more than half of its plan outlay under budgetary sources on social obligations, can hardly have adequate resources for its development works. However, Minister for Railways DS Sadanand Gowda has p-romised to “continue to fulfill its social obligations, but sustaining these objectives beyond a point is not possible without compromising on efficiency and safety of train operations.

In the year 2013-14, gross traffic receipts were Rs 1,39,558 crore and total working expenses were Rs 1,30,321 crore, which works out to an Operating Ratio of almost 94%. This implies that we spend 94 paise out of every rupee earned, leaving 6 paise only as surplus. This surplus, apart from being meager, is continuously on decline due to non-revision of fare. The surplus, after paying obligatory dividend and lease charges, was Rs 11,754 crore in 2007-08 and is estimated to be Rs 602 crore in the current financial year.

Funds to the tune of about ` 5 lakh crore i.e. around ` 50,000 crore per year for next 10 years, are required for ongoing projects alone. This leaves a huge gap between what is available as surplus and what is needed.

Passenger fares were kept lower than costs, thus causing loss in the passenger train operations. This loss kept on increasing from 10 paise per passenger kilometer in 2000-01 to 23 paise in 2012-13, as the passenger fares were kept low always.

On the other hand, freight rates were revised periodically and kept high in order to compensate the losses sustained in passenger sector resulting in freight traffic getting diverted consistently. Also the share of railways in freight traffic came down consistently in the last 30 years.

There has been focus on sanctioning projects rather than completing them. In the last 30 years, as many as 676 projects were sanctioned worth Rs 1,57,883 crore. Of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs 1,82,000 crore. In the last 10 years, 99 New Line projects worth Rs 60,000 crore were sanctioned out of which only one project is complete till date. In fact, there are 4 projects that are as old as 30 years, but are still not complete for one reason or another. The more projects we add, the thinner we spread our resources and longer it takes to complete them. “I am sure, if this trend is allowed to continue, many more thousands of crore will get spent yielding hardly any returns, the railways minister said.

In the last 10 years, Indian Railways made an investment of over Rs 41,000 crore in laying 3738 kilometers of New lines. On the other hand, it spent only about Rs 18,400 crore for doubling of 5050 kilometers though it was a priority for the health of the system.

It is estimated that over Rs 40,000 crore will be needed to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned level crossing and construction of road-under-bridges and road-over-bridges.

As per the Budget proposals by previous Railways Minister Mallikarjuna Khadge, Railways carried 1050.18 million tonnes; goods earnings were short only by Rs 94 crore. Originating passengers were less by 46 million over the revised target and pssenger earnings were short by Rs 968 crore over the revised target.

Though the gross traffic receipts grew by 12.8% to reach Rs 1,39,558 crore, it was short of the revised target by Rs 942 crore. On the other hand, ordinary working expenses stood at Rs 97,571 crore, which was in excess by Rs 511 crore.

Appropriation to Pension Fund had to be stepped up to match the actual outgo. As a result, instead of ending the year with a surplus of Rs 7,943 crore, the surplus was actually Rs 3,783 crore; that is, a shortfall of Rs 4,160 crore. This is after fulfilling the dividend commitment of Rs 8,010 crore.

The internal resource generation for plan in 2013-14 was Rs 11,710 crore, as against the revised target of Rs 14,496 crore. This is short by Rs 2,786 crore.

In 2013-14, there was a decline in traffic growth as compared to the revised projections. Expenditure however, shot up and was more than what was estimated. The operating ratio deteriorated by 2.7% over the revised target to touch 93.5% by the end of 2013-14 fiscal. As for the plan expenditure for 2013-14, it fell short of the revised target of Rs 59,359 crore mainly due to non-materialisation of PPP targets.

“The Railway Board, due to overlapping roles of policy formulation and implementation, has become unwieldy” the minister said.

Though Indian Railways has taken up computerisation in a large way, all the efforts have not been synergised. Hence, the desired results are not achieved. Need of the hour is to bring in a total change in the work culture of Railways and delivery of Railway Services by going in for large scale integrated computerisation of major functions of Indian Railways.

For the security of passengers, 17,000 RPF constables have been recruited.

The proposals
Fare revision will bring Indian Railways an additional revenue of about Rs 8,000 crore. However, we need more than Rs 9 Lakh crore to complete the Golden Quadrilateral Network and about Rs 60,000 crore for introducing one bullet train alone.

Railway PSUs have done very well and are financially sound, the minister assured, adding, “I propose to launch a scheme to bring in investible surplus funds of Railway PSUs in infrastructure projects of Railways, which can generate attractive returns for PSUs.”

Growth of Railway Sector depends heavily on availability of funds for investment in rail infrastructure. Internal revenue sources and government funding are insufficient to meet the requirement. Hence, Ministry of Railways is seeking Cabinet approval to allow FDI in Rail Sector.

Railways, being a capital intensive, sector has not been successful so far in raising substantial resource through PPP route. “It is my endeavor to pursue this in right
earnestness. It is our target that bulk of our future projects will be financed through PPP mode, including the high-speed rail, which requires huge investments,” the minister said.

Gowda has proposed the following initiatives:

  1. Near Plan Holiday approach;
  2. Prioritising and setting timelines for completion of the ongoing projects;
  3. Devising a mechanism for raising funds for rail infrastructure;
  4. Decision Support System for project implementation;
  5. Strategic partnerships and transparency in procurements;
  6. Aggressive indigenisation of imported products;
  7. Adopting safety standards matching international practices and setting up of Simulation Center to study causes of accidents;
  8. Encouraging development of locomotives, coaches and wagon leasing market.

The Railways now hopes to achieve total receipts of Rs 1,64,374 crore and would peg total expenditure at Rs 1,49,176 crore.

Minister Gowda anticipates freight traffic growth of 4.9%, amounting to 1,101.25 million tonne, an increment of 51.07 million tonne over 2013-14, based on trends in the first two months. He also anticipates a small growth in passenger traffic over 2013-14. Earnings from freight traffic are estimated at Rs 1,05,770 crore and from passenger traffic Rs 44,645 crore.

The fare revision which came into effect from 25 June has provided Railways a much needed respite, however little it may be. As Gowda considered the requests of the suburban passengers for revision in monthly season ticket fares, the revenue foregone on this account would be around Rs 610 crore. Periodic revision in passenger fare and freight rates, as approved by this august House, will be linked to revisions in fuel prices in order to insulate the railway revenues from fuel cost escalation, the minister has proposed.

Out of the total expenditure, the ordinary working expenses have been proposed at Rs 1,12,649 crore, which is Rs 15,078 crore higher than 2013-14. This has been necessitated by fuel price hike and increase in staff costs, the minister informed Parliament. Pension outgo in 2013-14 had grown by about 16%. Keeping the same trend, provision for pension is kept at Rs 28,850 crore.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has extended additional budgetary support of Rs 1,100 crore as capital and Rs 273 crore as Railway share from diesel cess for important road safety works. Largely owing to this measure and to the additional resource mobilization efforts, Railways Minister Gowda has proposed to increase the plan outlay under budgetary sources to Rs 47,650 crore, which is higher by Rs 9,383 crore over 2013-14. A large part of this higher plan outlay goes to safety related works, “which is also a high priority of our government”, the minister said.

The Railways Budget has proposed to scale down market borrowings through Indian Railway Finance Corporation to Rs 11,790 crore. Resources from PPP are kept at the interim level.

Time overruns and consequential cost escalations in completion of most of the railway projects have been a chronic worry of Railways for years, the minister said. “I propose to provide full financial outlays to projects targeted for completion in the current year itself (sic), keeping in mind the priorities and safety. I have ensured adequate allocations for 30 priority works for their timely progress,” he informed.

Available resources will be allocated to high priority areas like safety and capacity augmentation in train operations and in improving amenities and services for passengers, with high emphasis on cleanliness.

For passengers and stations
The Indian Railways envisages to provide foot-over bridges, escalators and lifts at all major stations including through PPP route.

The Railways will make an attempt this year to provide sufficient water supply, platform shelters and toilets at the railway stations.

There is a proposal to extend service of battery-operated carts to facilitate differently-abled and senior citizens to reach any platform comfortably at all major stations. The ministry will involve individuals, NGOs, trusts, charitable institutions, corporate bodies, etc to provide passenger amenities at stations.

Office on Wheels: As Railways carries a lot of business travellers who spend substantial time on travel, in order to add best value to their time, the minister has proposes to provide workstations in select trains on payment basis. A pilot project of the kind will be launched by this year.

Online booking facility of retiring rooms will be extended to all the stations during the course of the year.

The Railways Ministry is expanding the scope of online booking: “People can book a train; people can book a coach; people can book a berth and people can book a seat in chair car,” the minister said with a flourish.

In order to improve the quality, hygiene of on-board catering services and to provide variety, pre-cooked (ready-to-eat) meals of reputed brands will be introduced in a phased manner. The minister promised “perceptible improvement” in the catering services by introducing a quality assurance mechanism through third party audit by National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB)-certified agencies. In addition, a system of collecting feedback through the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) from the travelling passengers on the quality of food served, will be launched shortly. “If the service is not to the standards set, especially in hygiene and the taste, severe action would be initiated against the vendors including cancellation of the contract,” Gowda warned.

Indian Railways also proposes to set up Food Courts at major stations to provide the option of ordering regional cuisine while onboard, through emails, SMS and smartphones, etc. A pilot project will be started shortly between New Delhi-Amritsar and New Delhi-Jammu Tawi sections.

To improve upon the pathetic condition of cleanliness and hygiene in Railways, budget allocation for cleanliness in the current year has been increased by 40% over the previous year. Cleaning activities at 50 major stations will be outsourced to professional agencies and a separate housekeeping wing will have focussed attention and exclusive responsibility of maintaining cleanliness and sanitation at stations.

A Corpus Fund for upkeep will be set up at stations.

Use of CCTVs at stations will be extended to monitor cleanliness activities. An all-India complaint/helpline number will be printed on the back of all PRS tickets. A system of periodic third-party inspections will be introduced.

Bio-toilets will be increased in sufficient numbers in trains in order to mitigate the problem of direct discharge of human waste on the tracks and platform aprons at stations.

Onboard housekeeping services, currently operational in 400 trains, has received good feedback from passengers, the minister informed Parliament. This will be extended to all the important trains. The number of mechanised laundries will be increased in order to improve quality of the bedrolls provided in AC coaches.

RO drinking water units will be introduced on an experimental basis for potable water at stations and in trains.

Reputed and willing NGOs, charitable institutions and corporate houses will be encouraged to adopt and maintain stations for better cleanliness and upkeep.

A provision of Rs 1,785 crore for road-under-bridges and road-over-bridges has been made in this Budget. Governments concerned have been urged to expedite their proposals and pass on their share of the cost.

“I have decided to introduce a system of speedy clearances,” the minister said. “We intend to standardise designs and make these online. Delegation shall be done so that power of sanctioning is decentralised,” Gowda said in his speech.

To eliminate the 11,563 unmanned level crossings out of 30,348 level crossings, each unmanned level crossing is being examined in detail and, “depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it by suitable modality,” the minister said.

Indian Railways proposes to use modern Vehicle Borne Ultrasonic Flaw Detection System to detect rail and weld fractures. Additionally, Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRD) will also be tried at two locations as a pilot project.

In order to improve the safety of travelling passengers, technology for automatic closing of doors before start of train, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches will be introduced. A pilot project for a limited number of trains will be taken up.

The 17,000 RPF constables recruited so far will be shortly available for deployment. The new government has proposed to recruit 4,000 women RPF constables. In order to ensure security of women travelling alone, special instructions are being issued for their safety in each class of travel. With the induction of women RPF constables, women’s coaches will be escorted. Additional care will be taken for women travelling alone in all classes. RPF escorting teams in trains will be provided mobile phones so that passengers can contact them when in distress. Security helpline will be augmented.

The government will explore the possibility of building of boundary walls around stations through PPP route.

The Narendra Modi Government plans to take up eco-tourism and education tourism in the Northeast.

Humouring religions
Special pilgrim circuits like Devi Circuit, Jyotirling Circuit, Jain Circuit, Christian Circuit, Muslim/Sufi Circuit, Sikh Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Famous Temple Circuit etc have been identified in which specially packaged trains will be introduced. Private participation in this area will also be encouraged. “I intend to introduce some trains for Pilgrims and Tourists in short run also,” the minister said.

A tourist train will run from Gadag to Pandarpur via Bagalkot, Bijapur and Solapur covering the pilgrim and tourist places of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Another such train will start from Rameshwaram covering pilgrim and tourist places like Bengaluru, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar.

‘Moral’ train
These is also a plan to run a special train featuring life and work of Swami Vivekananda to inculcate good moral values and propagate the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.

Ticket reservationsThe railway reservation system will be revamped into next generation e-ticketing system. Ticket booking through mobile phones and post offices will be popularised. This should ease off the queues in front of existing ticket reservation counters. The government has promised to improve the system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against the current 2,000 tickets per minute and allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time.

The facility of coin-operated automatic tcket vending machines will be experimented with. Efforts will also be made to provide facility of buying platform tickets and unreserved tickets over internet.

Parking-cum-platform combo tickets will be launched to facilitate the passengers and to save their time.

Structural reforms
The Railway Board’s policy formulation and implementation functions will now stand separated.

Staff facilities and training
Indian Railways has 13.1 lakh staff, most of whom work on the cutting edge of providing rail services. “It is my duty that they are taken care by providing adequate facilities,” the minister said, announcing the initiation of the following measures:

  1. Presently an amount of Rs 500 per capita is contributed towards Staff Benefit Fund. This will be increased to Rs 800 per capita;
  2. There will be a special scheme for the meritorious wards of Railway persons for their outstanding performance in academics and sports for such children;
  3. The hospital management information system will be used to integrate all health units, divisional hospitals and central hospitals as well as empanelled hospitals;
  4. Feasibility of providing air-conditioning in loco cabins will be examined;
  5. A Railway university for both technical and non-technical subjects will be set up. The government will tie up with technical institutions for introducing railway
    oriented subject for graduation and skill development. In the meantime, staff at the ground level will be sent for short duration courses of technical and non-technical nature, involving locally available technical institutions. The exposure for specialised areas like high-speed, heavy haul operations, etc. will be undertaken for all level of staff and officers at appropriate institutes in India and abroad.

“It is the wish and dream of every Indian that India runs a Bullet train as early as possible,” the minister said, adding, “Indian Railways is on its way to fulfill that long cherished dream.” The first Bullet trains will start off on the already identified Mumbai-Ahmedabad route, where a number of studies have been done. A Bullet train may refer to the Shinkansen high speed trains of Japan, so nicknamed for their appearance and speed. Other high speed trains of a similar appearance to Japanese trains are also at times referred to as Bullet trains.

Invoking the legacy of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Golden Quadrilateral road network, Railways Minister said, the Modi Government is embarking on an ambitious plan to have a Diamond Quadrilateral Network of high speed rail, connecting major metropolitan cities and growth centres of the country. A provision of Rs 100 crore has been made in this Budget for high speed project to RVNL/HSRC (Rail Vikas Nigam Limited/High Speed Rail Corridor) for taking further steps.

While bullet trains would require completely new infrastructure, higher speed for existing trains will be achieved by upgrading the present network. Hence, an effort will be made to increase the speed of trains to 160-200 kmph in select sectors so as to significantly reduce travel time between major cities. The identified routes for these trains are: Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mysore-Bengaluru-Chennai, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur-Secunderabad.

Information technology
Taking note of the fact that IT has permeated into all spheres of human life, not only making life comfortable, but also making service delivery efficient, the minister wished to make governance transparent and accountable using IT solutions.

Indian Railways is going in for a computer assisted Enterprise Resource Planning Solution to synergise between various computerised services already in place. To begin with, following initiatives will be taken up:

  1. Moving towards paperless offices in Indian Railways in 5 years;
  2. Next Generation Ticket Reservation System;
  3. Wi-fi Services in all A1 and A category stations and in select trains;
  4. Real-time tracking of trains and rolling stock;
  5. Mobile based Wakeup Call System for passengers;
  6. Mobile based Destination Arrival Alert;
  7. Station Navigation Information System;
  8. Extension of Dual Display Fare Repeaters at all the ticket counters through PPP;
  9. Digital reservation charts at stations (Bengaluru model);
  10. Extension of computerised parcel management system;
  11. Extension of logistics support to various e-commerce companies by providing designated pick-up centres at identified stations;
  12. Providing education to children of Railway staff at remote locations through Railtel OFC (optical fibre cable) network.

Indian Railways hold vast land assets which need to be digitised and GIS mapped for better management and usage. This will help Railways in protecting the lands as well as leveraging it for raising resources. The resource mobilisation using land assets will be explored through private participation in setting up railway related business in railway lands as well as for commercial development.

In an effort to keep pace with developments of the modern world, Railways has to adopt and reinvent itself constantly. the minister has, therefore, proposes to set up an Innovations Incubation Centre. This Centre will harness the ideas generated from the staff of Railways and convert them into practical solutions to increase efficiency of the system. Innovations that result in cost saving as well as revenue generation will be suitably rewarded in the form of incentive. As a part of this exercise, summer internships for the undergraduates of engineering and management studies will be set up. Students can ‘intern’ at any of the various units of Railways, namely divisions, PSUs and production units.

Resource mobilisation
With a large backlog of sanctioned projects, funding continues to be the biggest challenge for the Railways. While private investment and customer funding for some port connectivity projects and few other power sector projects has started, much more needs to happen if infrastructure creation has to keep pace with the requirement. The government, to this end, will talk to industry and take further steps to attract investment under PPP through BOT and annuity route and 8 to 10

capacity augmentation projects on congested routes will be identified for this purpose. Railways of different zones will be empowered to finalise and execute such projects, the minister proposed.

Indian Railways has taken up port connectivity on a priority through PPP mode of funding in tandem with the Sagar Mala Project of Port Development. It will facilitate connectivity to the new and upcoming ports through private participation. So far, in principle approval has been granted for building rail connectivity to the ports of Jaigarh, Dighi, Rewas, Hazira, Tuna, Dholera and Astranga under participative model policy of Railways, amounting to a total of over Rs 4,000 crore.

Coal Connectivity
Railways will speed up construction of critical coal connectivity lines in Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia Area, Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega and Bhupdeopur-Raigarh-Mand area. This will bring nearly 100 million tonnes of incremental traffic to railways and will also facilitate faster transportation of coal to power houses.

Stations to be developed like airports
The government will take up development of identified stations to international standards with modern facilities and passenger amenities on the lines of newly developed airports through PPP mode. Initially, Railways would develop at least 10 major stations of metro cities and important junctions with -of-the-art facilities, leveraging land and air space in and around the stations.

Railways proposes to modernise its logistics operations by setting up logistic parks that provide for warehousing, packaging, labeling, distribution, door-to-door delivery and consignment tracking. In order to achieve better efficiency, mechanisation of loading and unloading will be given top priority.

In order to garner additional revenue from freights, the minister has proposed to launch a pilot project whereby automatic rebate from the computerised Freight Operations Information System (FOIS) will become available to customers offering traffic over the present expected levels of loaded movement. This will help reduce the empty flows on the Indian railway system apart from garnering additional revenue.

So as not to hamper the movement of passengers due to parcels, parcel traffic will be segregated to separate terminals where requisite facilities for storage/handling of parcels are made available to the customers and parcel consignments move in dedicated parcel trains running on fixed time table. Accordingly, a scheme for private participation in parcel movement will be launched shortly whereby procurement of parcel vans or parcel rakes by private parties will be facilitated.

A new design of parcel vans with better tare to pay load is being finalised. It is expected that by putting these measures in place, earnings from the parcel segment will increase substantially.

Private Freight Terminals
To develop network of freight terminals, policy of private freight terminals on PPP model is being further refined.

Gowda has proposed to give a boost to rail movement of fruits and vegetables in partnership with the Central Railside Warehousing Corporation (CRWC) by providing requisite facilities of temperature controlled storages at 10 locations viz Vatva, Vishakhapatna, Badagara, Cheriyanad, Bhivandi Road, Azara, Navlur, Kalamboli and Sanand on Indian Railways in the first phase. The aggregation and distribution from Railway terminal points shall be organised by the CRWC. “I hope, apart from avoiding national wastage of these products, this would help producers of fruits and vegetable in different parts of the country in getting better prices for their produce,” the minister said.

Transportation of milk through rail will be facilitated by providing special milk tanker trains in association with the National Dairy Development Board and Amul.

Energy conservation
The minister proposed harnessing solar energy by utilising roof top spaces of railway stations, other railway buildings and land, including through the PPP mode.

Indian Railways will start using bio-diesel up to 5% of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. This will save precious foreign exchange substantially.

In order to overcome delays in project execution, the minister has proposes to set up a project management group at the level of the Railway Board. Similarly, to expedite projects at the ground level, a project monitoring and coordination group consisting of officials of governments, Railways and professionals will be set up.

Transparency in administration, execution of projects and procurement will be given top priority, the government wants the people to believe. Strategic procurement policies will be adopted to make the procurement process transparent and efficient. E-procurement will be made compulsory for procurements worth Rs 25 lakhs
and above.

For the convenience of Governments and other stakeholders, the status of ongoing projects will be made available online.

Remote connectivity
Railways will be expanded in the hilly States and the Northeast. Railways Minister Gowda has proposed to allocate substantially higher funds for these projects compared to previous years. In 2014-15, an outlay of Rs 5,116 crore is earmarked for projects of the Northeast. This is 54% jump over allocations in the previous year. With higher allocations and by close monitoring of works in this region, the minister hopes that the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar new line; Lumding-Badarpur-Silchar gauge conversion; Harmuti-Murkongselek and Balipara-Bhalukpong sections will soon get commissioned. These measures will also give a boost to the capital connectivity projects in the region.

The Udhampur-Katra Rail link has recently been dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Modi, fulfilling the long cherished dream of millions of pilgrims across the country. The government has also tied up with Government of Jammu & Kashmir for bridging the Udhampur-Banihal portion by bus so that passengers can reach with one single ticket from origin to destination. Now, Railways will focus on the completion of missing link of Banihal to Katra.

The minister intends to hold coordination meetings with the officials of the newly created States of Telangana and remnant Andhra Pradesh and consider their requirements so as to give necessary economic boost. On the issues concerning Railways in the twin States, a committee has already been set up by the Railways and Government officials. Further action will be taken after receipt of the report of the committee.

Urban transport
With the challenges posed by the steadily increasing urban population concentration in metros and in million plus cities, a holistic approach to urban transport is required, the minister noted. A smooth and seamless inter-modal access is essential to improve urban mobility and, therefore, passenger-centric focus will be given to urban transport infrastructure creation. The NDA Government will coordinate with other transport ministries and urban bodies to develop optimal systems of integration of railways with other transport modes.

Mumbai will get 864 additional -of-the-art EMUs over a period of 2 years. With completion of the conversion of traction from 1,500 V DC to 25 kV AC in Mumbai Suburban Railways, the efficiency of operations would improve besides reducing cost of operations, the minister announced.

Defying the assurance that he will not be partial to his home State, Gowda announced a slew of new facilities, services and trains for Karnataka. “Bengaluru with bustling business activity attracts large commuters from surrounding rural areas and towns necessitating better connectivity of Bengaluru City with its suburban areas and hinterland. Study to explore possibility of enhancing the existing Indian Railways network of Bengaluru for meeting the above need will be taken up. In addition, to cater to the demand of Passenger Traffic in Bengaluru area, Byyappanahalli will be developed as a coaching terminal,” the minister said. Apart from Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the name of no other city was heard as frequently as Bengaluru’s in the minister’s speech.

Online registration of demand for wagons will be launched in the next 2 months. This will facilitate online payment of wagon registration fee as well as registering demand for wagons. Further, a process for ERR (Electronic Railway Receipt) will also be initiated during the year.

Indian Railways proposes to introduce corrosion-free wagons with low tare weight for movement of salt.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Project Implementation of Eastern and Western DFCs, a critical infrastructure project, will be closely monitored. The World Bank loan agreement for Kanpur-Mughalsarai section of Eastern corridor of Dedicated Freight Corridor will be signed in the current year for $1,100 million. During 2014-15, award of nearly 1,000 km of civil construction contracts is targeted.

Telling Parliament that he has received “innumerable requests for continuance of experimental stoppages” from MPs and various public representatives, Gowda noted that a large number of stoppages have been provided on experimental basis over a period of time. He said there was a cost to the system for each stoppage. “Also, too many stoppages result in slowing down of trains and increase the travel time particularly for long distance passengers. If this trend continues, most of our express trains will become passenger trains,” the minister reckoned. But he has allowed continuation of these experimental stoppages for a further period of 3 months: Up to 30 September. These stoppages will be reviewed solely on the basis of operational feasibility and commercial justification. Demand for new stoppages hereafter will also be considered on the same criteria. “We will try to provide alternate train connectivity to meet genuine demands of the public,” the minister assured.

Besides expansion and capacity augmentation projects, assessment of future needs and requirements in the form of providing connectivity to hitherto unconnected regions, requirement of movement of goods from new production/consumption centre needs to be assessed on a continuous basis. The minister said he had been receiving requests for projects from MPs, governments and other public representatives. To honour their requests, the minister proposed to undertake 18 surveys for new lines and 10 surveys for doubling, third and fourth line and gauge conversion projects in 2014-15. A list is appended at Annexure-1 (please refer to the attachment in Hindi or English). Surveys for Sagar-Chatarpur-Khujraho-Bhopal and Jabalpur-Udaipura-Sagar new line have been completed. The minister will get them examined expeditiously, he assured. Survey for Indore-Jabalpur new line will be expedited, he said.

The survey for Mysore-Kushalnagar portion of Mysore-Kushalnagar-Medekere new line has been completed and the Government has agreed to share the cost of the project. This will provide rail connectivity to important tourist destinations in Kodagu (Coorg). I propose to pursue this project for obtaining requisite approvals after completion of remaining survey up to Madikere.

A survey for new line between Tarighat and Ghazipur has been completed. However, the same needs to be examined by extending survey up to Mau so as to connect the line to the rail network further. It will be undertaken expeditiously, the minister said.

New trains
The minister said under this context once again that he has received “innumerable requests” from various quarters for running new train services. But he regretted to inform Parliament that resource constraints precluded him from meeting many of them. Nonetheless, to meet the critical demands of the un-reserved and reserved segments for different sectors, Gowda has decided to run a “jansadharan” group of trains and a “premium” group of trains, including those announced in the Interim Railway Budget 2014-15. These services will meet the demand surges which manifest themselves on special occasions, the minister said. Special trains would continue to run to meet the holiday and festival rush including services for Melmaruvathur, Velankanni, Jhalawar, etc for which the minister received “special requests from public representatives”.

The minister also proposed to introduce 5 jansadharan trains, 5 premium trains, 6 AC express trains, 27 express trains, 8 passenger trains, 2 Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) services and 5 Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) services. Besides, the minister proposed to extend the run of 11 existing trains.

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Sirf News needs to recruit journalists in large numbers to increase the volume of its reports and articles to at least 100 a day, which will make us mainstream, which is necessary to challenge the anti-India discourse by established media houses. Besides there are monthly liabilities like the subscription fees of news agencies, the cost of a dedicated server, office maintenance, marketing expenses, etc. Donation is our only source of income. Please serve the cause of the nation by donating generously.

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