Bangalore: Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu on Saturday said India would need to invest 450 to 500 billion dollars over the next 15 years for the railways to perform more efficiently and be the leading transport sector in India.
Delivering the inaugural lecture at the Foundation Day of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) here, Prabhu said the Indian railways has a massive history of not getting any investment at all for decades. “Unlike China, India has just not made any investment in the railways. Investment is urgently required as railways would be environment-friendly and cost-effective. I have been here for six months and have begun positively by initiating and unlocking a lot of measures that will in three or four years’ time make the railways healthy and hopefully initiate the culture of investing in the railways,” Prabhu said.
The railways, he said, would be borrowing money to the tune of Rs 1,50,000 crore from LIC as the railways had no internal source of income other than freight and passenger fares and government budget. “Technology infusement and modernisation of the railways would be our focus now.
“Nearly 39 budget announcements have already been implemented. Customer preference policies are being introduced and a massive information technology dose would be administered to the railways,” he said.
E-catering has been announced and customers can get the food they want by booking on e-catering which enables one to order for private food. Also, base kitchens are being developed to serve quality and healthy food. The railways would be able to provide quality food in its normal kitchens provided people pay the actual price of the product.
Other measures to modernise railways are: mechanised laundries to maintain fresh linen, redesign of coaches, unlocking the land value of railways in partnership with private sector (PPP mode), implementation of recommendations of the Ratan Tata-led committee on railway modernisation, implementation of e-tendering process, an IT vision for railways, audit of energy, water, implementation of solar energy for railways and achieving carbon footprint.
The minister said if the idea of India as a unified country must succeed, its population needs to be integrated. “We will have to manage a population of 1.6 to 1.8 billion up from the current 1.25 billion.”
“To carry this load is not possible without logistics, particularly transportation. And railways is one of the answers, which now carries annually three million people. So the potential exists and there’s a huge market, Prabhu pointed out.
New station building
The minister inaugurated a new station building at the Bengaluru City station that would serve as the second entry from its Okalipuram entrance.
Built at a cost of Rs. 5.5 crore, it will house nine ticket counters, parking space in the basement and toilets, a cloak room, an AC lounge.
The building will also have a food court and fast food counters very soon. Suresh Prabhu also inaugurated new station building at KR Puram along with and foot-over bridges at Koppal, Almatti, and Alnavar and staff quarters at Hubballi by remote.
Prabhu pointed out the need for an alternative satellite terminal for the purpose of decongestant of the City.