The railways will likely seek gross budgetary support (GBS) of around Rs 1.5 trillion for 2023-24, up from the outlay of Rs 1.37 trillion for the current fiscal year, according to an official source.
The GBS is one of the main sources for capital expenditure for the national transporter, which barely makes any operational surplus. It also borrows from the market via the dedicated arm IRFC and from other sources including multilateral agencies, besides crowding in private investments via the PPP route.
Investment in railways projects from Central Budget rose 91% on year to Rs 88,548 crore in the first half of the current financial year.
About 300 to 400 Vande Bharat trains are expected to be announced in the Budget 2023-24 as part of the Indian Railways’ plan to modernise its rolling stock. This adds to the fleet of 400 such trains announced this year. It also expects about 100 Vande Bharat trains to be manufactured in 2023-24.
The railways will also focus on automatic signalling and expanding the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System called Kavach as well as laying of new lines, the source added.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had, in the Budget 2022-23 announced that 400 new-generation Vande Bharat Trains would be developed and manufactured during the next three years.
Further, she had said that 2,000 km of network would be brought under Kavach, the indigenous world-class technology for safety and capacity augmentation in 2022-23 “More such works will be taken up in the next Budget,” the source said.
Indian Railways is also laying down and ambitious road map to lay about 100,000 kilometre of new track over the next 20 to 25 years as well as gradually increase the maximum speed of trains to 160 kilometre per hour.
“There is a need to decongest the railway network for faster movement of both freight and passenger trains,” the official noted.
“The serial production of Vande Bharat trains has started from October this year and we expect the production to be ramped up by January or February 2023,” the source said. The sleeper Vande Bharat train is likely to be rolled out in early 2024.
The Railways is also hoping to turn into an exporter of the indigenously developed semi high speed Vande Bharat trains by 2026 and is also working on a standard gauge version of the train.