Concerned over the heavy backlog of projects, a parliamentary panel has asked the railways to focus on completion of long-pending works to fulfill the objective of providing rail service to various parts of the country.
Standing Committee on Railways in its latest report noted that as on April 2016, the railways has 495 ongoing/pending projects involving new lines, gauge conversion, doubling and electrification worth Rs 3,61,772 crore. The committee, headed by TMC MP and former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, has found many important projects, of these 525 including production unit projects worth Rs 18,157 crore, 2215 road safety works worth Rs 1,700 crore, 619 signalling and telecom projects worth Rs 5848 crore and 17 Metro projects worth Rs 19,160 crore as pending/ ongoing.
The report submitted to the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has underscored the fact that these projects are important to meet the major challenges being faced by the railways relating to lack of capacity as it results in increasing load on railway infrastructure, compromising safety and lowering speed.
Furthermore, the number of new line, doubling and gauge conversion projects which was 368 as on April 2013, has increased to 432 as on April 2016, it noted. The committee has stressed that the railways should sanction only those projects in future for which financial arrangements have been tied up in advance.
The panel has noted that out of the 432 new line, doubling and gauge conversion ongoing/pending projects of the railways, 292 projects are socially desirable having rate of returns less than 12 per cent.
The socially desirable projects can be funded only from gross budgetary support (GBS) and not by taking loan from outside where the railways have to pay market rate because the return from those lines will not be substantial enough to reimburse the cost of burrowing, it obersved. Taking note of resource crunch as primary reason for delay in completion of projects, the panel has observed that internal generation is almost negligible and railways is dependent on GBS.
On the proposed joint venture with state governments, the committee has urged the railways to have a relook at the share of funds to be contributed by the backward, underdeveloped, hilly and far-flung states expeditiously.