Railways: Pitroda panel for fund push

Modernisation * To submit report today; stress on overhauling signalling system,tracks

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published:February 27, 2012 3:01 am

The Indian Railways is about to receive yet another high-level report recommending a huge outlay from the Central government this year and the subsequent four years,to save the national transporter from a financial collapse and upgrade it to a modern transport system on par with global standards.

The Expert Committee on Modernisation,formed in September,2011 under Sam Pitroda,Adviser to the Prime Minister,will present its report to Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi on Monday.

Sources said one of the key recommendations is likely to be a projection of as much as trebling the annual Gross Budgetary Support to the Railways this year,and continue with that for the next five years spread into the 12th Plan period,in order to part-fund the recommended modernisation processes.

Going by its terms of reference,while the report is going to stress major overhauling of the signalling system,tracks and locomotives,the crux of the recommendations — sourcing the funds needed for the major overhaul of the age-old railway system — is going to be the high point of the report.

It is learnt that while the modernisation process would need to be funded by generating around Rs 9 lakh crore in the next five years,around 30 per cent is projected to be as Gross Budgetary Support,while the majority would form Railways’ estimated internal generation involving,among other things,the commercial use of land and airspace at stations and other railway properties. The Railways got around Rs 20,000 crore as Budget outlay.

This will be the second high-level committee,after the Anil Kakodkar Committee on Safety last week,that is expected to call for fund infusion into the Indian Railways for a major upgrade.

The Pitroda committee is expected to also emphasise on executing projects with Public-Private Partnerships — something that has not really taken off in the Railways in the past.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways has already written to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister seeking more Central funds. Even the railwaymen’s federation has pleaded with the PM for a Budget outlay of Rs 50,000 crore this year to save it from collapse.

The French Connection

To use French technology in modernisation process,the Indian Railways is in talks with SNCF,the French Railway,for a possible continued collaboration.

The Railways is already in an agreement with its French counterpart in development of fire simulation software for coaches,study of high-speed corridor connecting Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune and redevelopment plan of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal in Mumbai. The contract reportedly expires in May.

“Safety,modernisation,high-speed railway have been identified as possible cooperation area,” Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said in a meeting with French delegation led by Minister for Transport Thierry Mariani. ENS

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