The Railways will spend about Rs 10,000 crore for renewal of tracks and adopt latest technology to detect rail fracture to reduce the accident rate to zero level, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said today. He also said that the Railways will install train protection warning system and eliminate all unmanned level crossings across the country by using Rs 1 lakh crore ‘Railways Suraksha Kosh’. Replying to a debate on Appropriation (Railways) Bill in the Rajya Sabha which was approved later, Prabhu claimed that the rate of train accidents in India has come down, as per the “global index”. “It does not mean I am happy with this. We would like to work towards zero accident,” he said on a day a train derailed in Uttar Pradesh, in yet another mishap.
Referring to the recent train mishap in Kanpur which is being probed by the NIA, he expressed concern about the “some of the causes of the accident”. With the help of NIA and state agencies, the Minister said “We will be able to work out.” In his almost 90-minute reply, the minister talked about a slew of initiatives planned for safety, technology upgradation and passenger amenities, like cleanliness.
Prabhu said the government is changing rolling stock and making sure that tracks are properly renewed. The Rail safety fund will be used to eliminate unmanned level crossings. On renewal of tracks, the government has set a target of 3500 km at a cost of Rs 10,153 crore for the year 2017-18. Prabhu said the Railways is using and is in the process of using various modern technologies to avoid accidents caused by human errors.
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In this context, he listed out the new technologies like ultra sonic detection system, train protection warning system, train collision avoidance system, use of strong couplings. “Without using these technologies, we will not be able to avoid accidents,” he said. In order to improve the profitabilty of railways, Prabhu said the government is trying to maximise revenues from fares as well as non-fare methods besides reducing the cost of operations.
Minister said it was a difficult year for railways as the cost increased due to Pay Commission and revenue did not increase. To cut cost, Prabhu said the government will focus on reducing energy cost through electrification and use of alternate source of energy. He said the government plans to save Rs 41,000 crore in energy bill in the next 10 years. It is targeting generation of 1000 MWs of and 200 MWs of wind power besides energy mix, use of LED bulbs, waste to energy plant. On electrification, he said railways is targeting 4000 km route in the next fiscal and in the next five years it will be double. Referring to the congestion in rail lines, Prabhu said currently 16 per cent of the track is catering to the 60 per cent of the traffic, as a result of which major trunk routes are saturated. “That is why we are doing expansion of rail track through doubling and tripling.” (More) PTI ARU MJH AKK AKK 03302012
Citing the paucity of space at stations for accommodating the increasing number of trains, the Railway Minister said he was wondering whether rail tracks could be constructed beneath and above the existing ones to docongest the platforms. Making a comprarison with the previous governments, he said “In the last two-and-a-half years, we have done 12,700 km long doubling of tracks whereas total doubling done since 1947 was 15,000 kms.” He emphasised that railways problem is not linked with the railway budget.
He also said there is a significant increase in the capital expenditure. “Rs 1.31 lakh crore has been allocated in the Capex for the 2017-18 including Rs 55000 crore for Gross Budgetary Support.” Highlighting decline in investment in the railways and increase in the road sector over the years, he said “The government has decided to go for more investment in the rail sector. Railways has earmarked Rs 8.5 lakh crore for the five years.” Prabhu said the railways is trageting to generate Rs 17,500 crore as non-fare revenue in the next fiscal. Non-fare revenue refers to branding of trains, advertising at stations and platforms.
Prabhu said freight has declined but expressed confidence that loading will rise in the future as freight rate has been rationalised to attract more loadings. Prabhu said railways is targeting laying of 3500 km of line for the broad gauge purpose in a year, which means 10 km per day. This will be increased to 19 km per day in the next two years. Talking about the passenger amenities proposed, the Railway Minister said escalators will be provided at major stations. Wi-Fi facilities have been provided at about 150 stations and more stations will be covered soon.
Referring to new services introduced for passengers, he said Mahamana Express, Antodaya Express and Humsafar Express have been introduced with many facilities. Tejas Express will be introduced in the next few months to be followed by double-decker Udaya Express. He said railways has introduced new catering policy separating cooking and distribution of food to improve catering. Highlighting transparency, he said now all procurement and tenders in railways are on e-platforms and auction of scraps are also conducted through online process. He said there is a special focus on maintaining cleanliness at rail premises. All coaches will be equipped with bio-toilets in the next three years.