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Railway Budget
Provide Rs 20K crore budgetary support each for next 2 years to Indian Railways: ASSOCHAM plea to Govt.
With Indian Railways currently facing tremendous financial constraint, apex industry body ASSOCHAM today urged the Central Government to provide budgetary support of Rs 20,000 crore each for next two years in form of a soft loan or a grant or a mix of both to upgrade and plug all loopholes and deficiencies in this 160 years old network, especially in area of safety and transform it into the most efficient and affordable carrier in the world.

"Such a support would also be read by global investors and help stimulate their interest in investing in upgradation of one of the world's largest rail network," noted the 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).

"Capacity enhancement, efficiency, expansion and safety are major issues being faced by Indian Railways which plays a crucial role in development and operation of infrastructure sectors like coal, power, steel, cement and other critical sectors like fertilizers," said D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber's study.

"A host of opportunities are available for augmentation and improvement of rail infrastructure in India which needs a fresh impetus of visionary policy, innovative technology infusion and time-bound implementation for its overall transformation as only then will it be able to render world-class service with excellent safety reliability and efficiency," said Mr Rawat.

"Innovative policies are required to be framed to attract finance for capacity building works, besides effective public-private partnerships (PPPs) would go a long way in delivering modern, high quality public services competitively and foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways would also provide a big boost to its modernization and bringing in state of the art technology."

ASSOCHAM had last month met the Union Minister for Railways, D.V. Sadananda Gowda and submitted 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 ASSOCHAM 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.

ASSOCHAM had further 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.

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.

The plan proposed by ASSOCHAM 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. "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, further suggested ASSOCHAM.

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 for 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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