Panel suggests Rs.800,000 crore railways modernisation plan


New Delhi : A high-level panel on railway modernisation, headed by technocrat Sam Pitroda, Monday suggested a total funding of over Rs.800,000 crore for revamping the Indian Railways network in the next five years.

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“The railways need to take bold initiatives, have a clear vision and work in mission mode to completely modernise the network,” Pitroda, adviser to the prime minister on innovation and public information infrastructure, told reporters via video conferencing from Chicago after the panel’s report was submitted to Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi.

The expert group was formed September last year to recommend ways and means to modernise Indian Railways so it is able to meet the challenges of economic growth, aspirations of the common man, new technology and an expanding market while focusing on social and strategic requirements of the country.

Among the major recommendations of the report are modernisation of 19,000 km out of the total 64,000 km of existing track, strengthening of 11,250 bridges to sustain higher load at higher speed and eliminating all level crossings.

It has also suggested implementation of automatic block signalling, deployment of on board train protection system with cab signalling on all other routes and introduction of GSM based mobile train control communication system.

The panel also suggested introduction of new generation locomotives and high speed coaches, heavy haul freight bogies, green toilets on all passenger trains besides modernisation of 100 major stations.

In order to attract private investment, the panel suggested development of public private partnership PPP models and policies in various areas to augment core capabilities such as stations and terminals, high speed railway lines, elevated rail corridor, private freight terminals, leasing of wagons, locomotive and coach manufacturing, captive power generation and renewable energy projects.

Talking about pushing the construction of north-south, east-west, east-coast and southern dedicated freight corridors covering 6,200 km in the next ten years, the panel suggested a high speed railway line between Ahmedabad and Mumbai for trains running at 300 km per hour.

To facilitate revamp of railways, the panel said the Railway Board should be reorganised along business lines and its chairman should work like a CEO.

The panel also suggested to constitute a Tariff Regulatory Authority to the cash strapped railways.

All this, the panel said, would require a total funding of Rs.822,671 crore in the next five years.

Talking about ways to source this money, the panel suggested that Rs.250,000 crore could come from gross budgetary support, Rs.201,805 crore from internal resource generation, Rs.101,000 crore from leasing/borrowings, Rs.229,024 crore from PPPs, Rs. 24,000 crore from dividend rebate and Rs.16,842 crore from the Road Safety Fund.