news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | July 8, 2014 | 4.15 pm IST

Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda’s proposal of allowing public private partnership and Foreign Direct Investment in railway infrastructure has raised a furore.

Presenting the Railway Budget in Parliament on Tuesday, Gowda said that the government would explore options to interact with industry to attract investment in Public Private Partnership mode through Built Operate and Transfer basis and Annuity route. The government is likely to identify 8-10 capacity augmentation projects on congested routes for this. Gowda also said that the government would undertake port connectivity on a priority in PPP mode.

But this move has come in for strong criticism from leaders of various parties. These include DMDK’s Vijayakanth, Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), Mayawati, and the Congress, whose workers even went and vandalised Gowda’s office.

The budget provided for 40 percent increase in expenditure on cleanliness and for CCTVs to monitor cleanliness at stations. Gowda said cleaning activities at 50 major stations will be outsourced to professional agencies and that separate housekeeping wings would be set up. He also said that onboard housekeeping services on 400 trains would be appreciated.

Gowda also announced plans to introduce a bullet train on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route and the setting up of a Diamond Quadrilateral network of high-speed rail connecting major metros and growth centres. A sum of Rs. 100 crore has been provided for initiating the project.

The budget estimates that Rs 40,000 crore would be needed for track renewal, elimination of unmanned railway crossings and for road-under and road-over bridges. 

Ticketing to be further modernised to issue 7,200 tickets per minute. To strengthen security in trains and at stations, 17,000 RPF constables have been recruited; 4,000 women constables to also be recruited. Railway Protection Force teams in trains to be provided mobile phones.

As many as 58 new trains have been proposed including five Jan Sadharan trains, five premium trains and six AC express trains. The run of 11 trains will be extended. The budget also promises a paperless railway offices in five years.

Indian Railways hold vast land assets which need to be digitised and GIS mapped for better management and usage; resource mobilisation using land assets will be explored through PPP mode.

Gowda, former chief minister of Karnataka, said that the union government would launch a special train to promote the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.

With 12,500 trains and 23 million passengers every day, the Indian Railways carry out work that is equivalent to moving Australia's population all over the country every day.
According to India Spend figures, in last 10 years, 99 new line projects worth Rs 60,000 crore were sanctioned of which only one project has been completed to date. In his speech, Gowda said that of the 676 projects sanctioned totally, only 356 remain completed.

The new government also needs to ensure that ongoing projects are also completed even as it sanctions news ones.

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