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Industry body Assocham submits mega plan to transform Indian Railways
Apex industry body Assocham called on Union Minister for Railways, D.V. Sadananda Gowda to propose a Mega Plan as part of the vision of a seven trillion dollar economy to be initiated now and completed in another 15 years ending 2029-30 that will create a freight capacity to handle about 50 per cent of the traffic offered by this level of the economy.

“The plan envisages capacity enhancements with required investments worth $2.5-$3 trillion thereby making Indian Railways an engine of growth by creating jobs across the board at various levels, boost demand for construction, steel, cement, equipment, new type of high load wagons, collapse resistant comfortable coaches, latest signaling and electrical items and open up the railways for all types of new services for long distance passengers including e-business and entertainment as well as catering,” noted a study titled ‘Gearing Indian Railways for a 7 trillion dollar economy by 2030’ conducted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

“We have suggested the new Railway Minister a mega plan comprising seven corridor high speed freight network for transporting goods back and forth from manufacturing to consumption centres and from all major ports within specified timeframe of 36 hours,” said A.K. Agarwal, chairman, Assocham’s National Committee on Rail Transport who led the chamber’s delegation along with secretary general, D.S. Rawat.

“Apart from this, it has also been suggested to build an ultra high speed (up to 300 kmph) passenger services connecting all large and identified urban centres. In the existing lines, all trunk passenger routes should be turned to four line networks effectively separating passenger from goods and services and thereby releasing large capacities for both,” further noted the Assocham delegation. “The plan will also build in it, promotion of industrial growth so that the synergy of rail transport system and that of manufacturing boost each other and completely transform the economic landscape.”

In order to ensure that Indian Railways operates with commercially viable rates as well as to prevent it from misusing its monopoly power against freight or passengers, Assocham has suggested that regulatory body should soon be set up and legal provisions should be made to fix all charges that it levies for various services it provides.

The regulatory body should have powers to monitor quality of services and adjudicate complaints of misuse of monopoly power, further suggested the Assocham study. “The proposed tariff fixing body should be expanded to undertake this larger task to improve public acceptance of its role and bolster investor confidence in the network.”

A decision offering full management control to the special purpose vehicles (SPVs) or joint ventures set up for each project component would help boost PPP response from the private sector, suggested the Assocham study.

Besides, Indian Railways should create conditions for talented experts in engineering, transportation and project management personnel from the private sector to partner with it just on the lines of how the previous central government encourage private sector participation in Aadhar and Antarix.

Assocham has also suggested transformation of railway porter service and to organize it on modern lines by training the porters to provide passenger-friendly services along with efficient trolleys designed to cater to luggage transport.

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