Former Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan is of the opinion that India should upgrade and improve the present railway infrastructure rather than investing in bullet trains.
Talking to the media here on the occasion of the foundation day of Nagpur Metro project, Sreedharan said, “India is a vast country with long distances. So, eventually we have to go for bullet trains. But presently, I feel is not the right time. Because today, Indian Railways needs huge infusion of funds to improve the present system itself. It will benefit the country more by putting the money into existing system now. Increase the speed, increase the line capacity, give more facilities and increase the safety of trains. So, our first priority should be to improve the existing system.”
He, however, added, “We should not forget that in the next 8-10 years our economy will increase and by that time we will need bullet trains. We can have bullet trains on one or two corridors, because it will have a fallout for Indian Railways and that technology can be absorbed to some extent.”
Asked if the railway systems can be allowed to be operated by private companies as it happens in some countries, Sreedharan said, “I am strong votary of the state running the railways. Private parties will not come unless there is 15 to 20 per cent profit. So, the state will have to run the show.”
Sreedharan expressed satisfaction over the progress of the Nagpur Metro project. He said, “Its civil design is very good. Its deck width is 8.5 m as against 10.5 m elsewhere. So, the space has been better utilised. It also has the advantage of FSI and stamp duty and, most importantly, it is being helped with very good cooperation and coordination between state and central governments. So, funds are not a problem. Otherwise, in places like Chennai and Bengaluru, the project is dragging due to lack of coordination between state and Central governments.”
There is a proposal to offer an FSI of 4 for the buildings on the Metro corridor — 500 m on both sides — and levy 1 per cent extra stamp duty on property transactions to garner funds.
Asked about lack of integration between Metro systems and other inter-city and intra-city transport systems, Sreedharan said, “The Government of India has already laid down a policy for integrated transport system and it will slowly roll out. Cities like Kochi have already done that to a good extent.” The Rs 8,680-crore Nagpur Metro project has already begun the work on both east-west and north-south corridors, together spread over 38 km. The project has already received Rs 194 crore together from the state, the Centre and the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT). The Nagpur Metro Rail Corporation Limited (NMRCL) has sought Rs 500 crore each from the Centre and the state. It has been assured of Euro 130 million from France and Euro 500 million from Germany and the funds are expected to start flowing in from April.