The Railway ministry, in its roadmap for the the new government will highlight the immediate need for capacity augmentation, realistic fare hike and additional funds for financial as well as qualitative turnaround of the Indian Railways.
An internal note prepared by the ministry as part of its inputs to the new government calls for focusing on projects with a healthy return and investments in profitable freight lines. A list of 30 projects will be highlighted, sources said.
Apart from the money already being received from the government as Gross Budgetary Support, the system requires infusion of additional funds to the tune of Rs 10,000-12,000 crore every year for the next four years to enhance capacity, mostly on the busiest routes.
Sources said the additional money will be used to complete already sanctioned work worth Rs 40,000-45,000 crore that will give the country 8,000 km of rail lines, mostly doubling and tripling of select existing lines, gauge-conversion and starting new lines. There is also a plan to build 40 railway terminals along with signaling system.
Officials are going to stress that around 800-odd sanctioned works that have not made any headway for want of cash and are meant solely for capacity augmentation has to be kickstarted. “These works have been sanctioned over the years but there has never been any money to invest because of rising operational costs, mounting pension and salary liabilities among other things,” said a senior railway officer.
With most Gross Budgetary Support going to national projects like linking railways to Kashmir, Northeast and Dedicated Freight Corridor, the railways has not been able to carve out funds for capacity augmentation that could match its growth — both in passengers and freight. “The lines are choked, causing delays and general deterioration of services, affecting safety as well. So, we will be pushing for a specific plan for capacity building,” said the official.
Top officials in the Rail Bhawan are optimistic because for the first time in three decades, the ministry is likely to be controlled by a party who will not be weighed down by pressures from allies — a general understanding among officials being, the BJP would like to keep the railway portfolio with itself.
Around 370 projects have been also shortlisted as per priority and necessity out of the pending over 2,000-odd projects that failed to take off for the past many decades as they were either not viable or unnecessary. The note also stresses on the need to increase fares by around 14 per cent and freight by around six per cent right away. “The interim budget was passed by Parliament so this increase in rates will not be something new. We are certain the new regime would approve it,” he said.