Railways seeks budgetary support for safety fund

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 28 2014, 08:12am hrs
After the derailment of Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express in which four persons were killed and over a dozen injured, the Railways has demanded that a special railway safety fund be created with budgetary support. The non-lapsable fund, it said, would be used to upgrade the maintenance of railway infrastructure (tracks, signalling, bridges and rolling stock) and install fire preventive measures in all trains.

Spate of recent incidents have made it imperative for the Railways to have a separate fund to ensure that there's no laxity in maintenance due to lack of funds. These funds have to come from the ministry of finance, we don't have the capacity to raise the necessary resources on our own, a senior railway board official said.

According to sources in railway board, railway minister Sadananda Gowda and Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar have had discussions with the finance minister Arun Jaitley on this matter.

The railway board has also requested the finance ministry to waive the dividend it pays on the gross budgetary support. Railways pays a dividend of around R6,000 crore, so, if that amount is waived for five years, the national transporter will get around R30,000 crore in that fund, sources said.

The previous Railway Safety Fund (RSF), with a corpus of R17,000 crore, was started by the NDA government, in the 2002-03 Budget presented by then railway minister Nitish Kumar. This RSF lapsed on April 1, 2008.

After the Centre infused R17,000 crore for safety upgrade, the railways overachieved its committed target of reducing the frequency of consequential accidents from 0.44 to 0.17 accidents per million train km.

The cash strapped Railways, which has been suffering losses of R26,000 crore on passenger segments, have been struggling to maintain its 64,000 km of rail network in absense of any help from the Central government. .