After eliminating all unmanned level crossings in record time last year, the Narendra Modi government in its second term has drawn up an ambitious plan to rid the country of all manned level crossings by terming each elimination exercise “preferably as a National Project”.
The new plan involves no cost-sharing with states. Instead, Railways has proposed to fund it alone with help of Rs 50,000 crore from the government spread over four years.
The plan, part of the Railways agenda for 100 days, seeks to first get rid of all the 2,568 level crossings in the busiest corridors of Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals by constructing Road Overbridges and Road Underbridges with faster approval of designs at the central level.
In the current setup, state governments are required to share 50 per cent of the cost of such structures to eliminate level crossings. However, the new plan proposes 100 per cent funding from the Centre. The states will only be asked to acquire the land required for the structures.
The plan, approved by Railways, is to get all clearances in order in 100 days for the 2,568 level crossings.
Human role poses hurdle to smooth train operations
There are a little over 19,000 manned level crossings. Those witnessing heavy traffic flow happen to be on the Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals. Although manned level crossings are considered less risky for road users than the unmanned ones, they too pose a hurdle to smooth train operations since they involve human intervention in ensuring right of way for trains without obstruction from road users.
Among the other ideas the Railways plans to work on in the first 100 days is an experiment like the Ujjwala scheme in which people will be urged to give up the subsidy component of train fares. A similar exercise in the previous term to give options to senior citizens to give up their 50 per cent concession in train tickets had received lukewarm response.
After discussing the idea for years, Railways has also decided to try out passenger train operations by private players. It will give two trains to its public sector undertaking IRCTC which will be entrusted with the job of roping in private players to run the trains at tariffs and with amenities decided by the private operator. Railways will get haulage charges. The internal dialogue in Railways about this proposal earlier has been that the national transporter was reluctant to give away lucrative routes to private players and it was thought that no private player would be interested in non-lucrative routes.
There is also a plan to corporatise the seven production units starting with Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareli.
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