Bibek Debroy panel moots Production Plant Aayog under Railways and SPV for Infra development

A high-level committee on Railway restructuring headed by Bibek Debroy has proposed that all the production plants/units in Indian Railways must be placed under a single manufacturing unit and be managed by a Railway Production Plants Aayog to function under Ministry of Railways, and a railway infrastructure company be set up as a Government Special Purpose Vehicle with a possibility of disinvesting in the future.

The committee set up last year to propose methods to mobilise resources for Railway projects and restructuring of the sector has suggested a slew of financial and institutional measures.

In its interim report, the committee called for adopting a commercial accounting system to determine the extent of subsidisation between freight and passenger services. It also suggested sharing of subsidy between the Centre and State governments for capital investments and operational losses of the Railways. Besides, it has pitched for a railway regulator and train operations company.

Railway restructuring have been very complex and politically sensitive affairs in countries around the world. With this view in mind, the committee has said that the Railway Ministry should decide its policies in sync with the best interest of country and the railway sector. As there have been multiple reports on restructuring, the committee strongly recommended that it should be implemented by the Railway Minister with direct reporting to the Prime Minister. The restructuring should not be left to the Railway Board, it added.

It has proposed that the Railway Regulatory Authority be set up statutorily with an independent budget, which can do economic regulation including tariff, safety and provide fair access within three years. It should also possess quasi-judicial power, the report said.

The committee has invited suggestions on the report till 30th April, 2015.