Centre likely to Spend more to Modernise Indian Railways

Prime Minister Modi asks States to revamp Railway stations into icons

New Delhi: The centre is likely to increase its investment in the modernisation of railways by 20 percent to 30 percent in the upcoming railway budget, apart from “rationalising” freight tariffs in the wake of falling revenue from goods transportation.

The government may also increase the planned outlay for the next fiscal year, but the rise is expected to be lower than the 52 percent increase for the current fiscal year. Despite an allocation of nearly Rs one lakh crore towards plan outlay for 2015-2016, the spending may end the year at around Rs 90,000 crore.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held meeting with the secretaries of all Central ministries and asked the states to redevelop at least one railway station under their jurisdiction and make it an iconic structure and a centre of economic activity. The PM also met his Cabinet colleagues and reviewed functioning of their ministries.

Last month, in a meeting of the council of ministers, the PM had said that on every fourth Wednesday of the month he would be holding such review meetings.

During the meeting with all the secretaries and chief secretaries via video conferencing (known as Pragati meeting), Mr Modi also directed the states to work towards speedy implementation of solar power projects in their respective jurisdiction.

Further, the PM reviewed the programme for elimination of Kala Azar, and called for all efforts to eradicate the disease. He also directed officials to address related public grievances to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Progress of vital infrastructure projects in the road, railway, coal, power and renewable energy sectors, spread over several states were also reviewed by him, official sources said.

“Today’s PRAGATI session was extensive. We discussed infra projects, Mission Indradhanush, upgradation of NIFT campuses & other issues,” Mr Modi later tweeted.

Taking stock of the comprehensive re-development projects of railway stations, he suggested to all Chief Secretaries to work towards at least one such re-development project in each state, a PMO statement said.

Modi said such re-developed railway stations would become iconic structures and centres of economic activity, it added.

Reviewing the Char-Dham road connectivity improvement project in Uttarakhand, the Prime Minister called for expediting the work at the earliest.

“Also called for expediting work on the Char-Dham road connectivity improvement project in Uttarakhand,” he said in another tweet.

Railways’ expenditure on construction of new lines, doubling and gauge conversion has gone up significantly in recent years. The upcoming budget may lay more emphasis on generating more revenue from freight traffic, given the slowing growth in the segment.

The railways may cut freight tariffs for commodities, including coal, iron ore, cement, steel, fertilisers, foodgrains and container traffic.

“The target is to increase freight volume by 50 million tonnes through tariff cuts,” said a source. The transporter is also hopeful of raising income from transportation of petroleum products.

The railways is estimated to see about one percent growth in freight business in the current fiscal year. So, it is planning to revise its strategy by initiating tariff reductions on transports of commodities like cement and steel.

Though it may miss the freight target of 1.2 billion tonnes set for 2015-2016 by 75-80 MT, said an official.

Last week, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had said the government would continue with the initiatives taken in the previous Budget for the development of Indian Railways.

The total income of the Indian Railways went up by 12.16 percent to Rs 1.58 lakh crore in the last fiscal year ending March 2015, compared to Rs 1.41 lakh crore in the previous year.

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