Likening the Indian Railways to an ICU patient, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today said the public transporter was suffering because of neglect and lack of investment and the government would invest 120 billion US dollar in the next five years.
Indian Railways was suffering because of neglect over several years and lack of investment in infrastructure development, the minister said.
“In the last several years we have not invested as much as should have been invested,” Prabhu said at the Eastern Railway headquarter here.
“Because of neglect over several years, Railways is suffering,” he said.
The minister said that steps were being taken to rectify these, but this would take some time before results were visible.
“You cannot increase the number of trains or rolling stock with the given infrastructure,” he said.
Illustrating the present state of Indian Railway, Prabhu said an ICU patient cannot be expected to join a marathon race against the Chinese railway now.
“A marathon cannot be done by an ICU patient and today’s Indian Railway cannot be compared tomorrow with Chinese railway. We must first understand where railway was and in that context we must compare today’s railway with any other railway,” Prabhu said earlier at a Bharat Chamber of Commerce session.
Emphasising that the government needs time to make up for the past, he said, “We are starting to run from zero point and still want to win the race” adding that in the next five years the government was investing 120 billion USD in the railways.
“Many of the problems that we face today is because of the lack of investment in the past and also because modernisation has not been initiated in the railways,” Prabhu said.
He said that Indian Railway is always compared with that of China but to reach that stage India must make investments.
Prabhu during the day also inaugurated a mobile-based application system introduced by Eastern Railway, R-Mitra, to ensure women’s safety and said that it is an “extremely useful app” that could be used by regional railways nation-wide. “Around 2.7 crore to 3 crore people travel in the Indian Railways system on a day-to-day basis. Different types of crimes are committed by anti-social elements,” Prabhu said at the Eastern Railway headquarter here.
“It is a big challenge to deal with crime in railway properties,” he said adding tracking and preventing crime was very important.
Prabhu said that lack of capacity in trains was visible during festivals like Durga Puja or Chatt when the demands increase.
The minister said that the Railways was working on a new coach design and noted that cleanliness has increased significantly.
“But I am not happy, there is a long way to go,” he said.
“However, in short time we have shown some results,” he said adding “we have a different vision.”
The minister said that 17 states have signed agreements with Railways for joint venture projects.
“I hope West Bengal will also join after considering the benefits,” Prabhu said.
During the programme at the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, the minister said that the railway was not getting enough cargo, though it has a capacity to handle 1.2 billion tonnes annually.
“We are very geared up to handle cargo of up to 1.20 billion tonnes this year. We are ready. We told the CM (Mamata Banerjee) also that we can handle more coal but we are not getting enough cargo,” Prabhu said at a Bharat Chamber of Commerce session.
Prabhu described Railways as the most eco-friendly form of transport which is a key component of the ‘Make In India’ programme.