Going against an internal report of the Indian Railways that called it a “catastrophic” idea, the NDA government has decided to make a new railway zone based in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
Railways Minster Piyush Goyal announced the decision to create a new South Coastal Railway (SCoR) late Wednesday; he did not take questions from the media.
Sources said the issue was not discussed in the Railway Board before the decision was announced.
The announcement comes days before election dates are to be announced, and the model code of conduct implemented. The move is being seen as one with an eye on making a mark in Andhra Pradesh in the upcoming polls, where the BJP will battle its former ally TDP. Assembly elections are also due in AP this summer.
On Saturday, a delegation of BJP MPs and MLAs had met Goyal on Saturday and presented a demand for the new zone — a demand made by TDP in the past without success.
In its report, submitted to the Railway Board last year, a seven-member committee of senior officials mandated to examine feasibility of the demand had stated that creation of a new zone in Andhra Pradesh would have a “catastrophic” effect, and “will be like putting many nails in the coffin of Indian Railways”.
The report, reviewed by The Indian Express, gave nine arguments to explain why a new zone would adversely affect operations of the Railways. The idea, the report maintained, “vitiates the pan-national character of the Indian Railways” and goes against the idea of the “forefathers of the nation”, who unified 42 small railways of the princely states into six zones in the 1950s.
On Wednesday, Goyal said that formalities regarding the move would follow. He spent two hours with Railway Board members at lunch, and sources said the issue was neither discussed nor mentioned to them.
The Visakhapatnam zone will take the number of railway zones in the country to 18, including Kolkata Metro.
Waltair division, based out of Visakhapatnam, will have the new zonal headquarter.