Indian Railways should launch ‘Zero Accident Mission’: Suresh Prabhu

New Delhi: Indian Railways needs to launch “Zero Accident Mission” with a definite time frame, said Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Saturday. “This requires integrated approach involving use of cost effective advanced technology and properly trained manpower,” he said in his address at the valedictory session of the two-day international railway convention on advances in command, control and communications systems for main line, metro and high speed transit systems, a statement said.

Stressing that new advances in command, control and communication system can play a very vital role in evolving safe and secure operation environment on Indian Railways where there should be no scope of accidents even in case of human errors, Prabhu suggested the railways use an international forum like the international railway convention to gauge their standards.

“We should focus on global benchmarks and assess our standing as compared to the global standards. We should try to develop indigenous cost effective systems having global standards suitable for Indian Railways,” he said.

Prabhu appealed to foreign companies and their representatives participating in the convention to come to India, collaborate and manufacture, highlighting that India has the advantage of skilled manpower, big market and a large manufacturing base, the statement added.

The Indian government is planning to invest $120 billion for developing railways in the next five years, he said, inviting foreign countries to make India as their manufacturing base. Prabhu said that the investments in railways will be higher in the future and suggested foreign countries to export from India as well, the statement added.

With the Indian Railways adopting modern signalling and telecommunications solutions like centralized operation of signalling system, electronic interlocking, LED signals and block proving by axle counters, signalling and telecommunications professionals, industry representatives and companies like Efftronics, RTVision, RailTel, Huawei, TechnoSatComm, Siemens, Thales, Hitachi, Frauscher, EMC and other participated in the convention.

The convention was organized by Institution of Railway Signal and Telecommunication Engineers (IRSTE) and Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE) in association with the railways.

“Once we implement it fully, the accident rate will go down and speeds will improve, facilities will improve, quality of service will go up and revenue will increase. Customer experience will go up significantly,” the Minister said.

The plan has come amid an increase in number of railway accidents in recent months. “Train accidents, delay of trains and deterioration of service, which is seen today, all are happening because of the underinvestment in the past. The ‘zero-accident mission’ is an expensive proposition, but that is the only way to have safe travel,” he said.

Mr.Prabhu said the Railways needed money to correct the anomaly of under-investments, and called for travellers to contribute to the mission. “My good friends and travellers would contribute a small part of that because how, otherwise, will a public utility finance itself,” he said.

With this objective in mind, the Ministry has planned an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the next five years. Explaining how the additional funds will be raised, Mr. Prabhu said all investments could not come from fares or freight.

“We will do prudential borrowing from institutions such as the LIC, the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, which would be repaid in the next 30-40 years through an increase in revenues,” he said.

The Minister said he was working on increasing the transparency and efficiency of the Railways by bringing in a change in the accounting system, which was key to attracting investments. “I am also putting in place a reformed accounting system, not just commercial accounting which people keep talking about. Something beyond that, going from budgeting to outcomes. The complete chain of events will be captured; this would be a robust and forward-looking accounting system. The idea is to become more efficient, more robust and transformational,” he said.

Moving to commercial accounting was one of the key recommendations of the Bibek Debroy panel on railway restructuring. Mr. Prabhu said he would put in place an information technology (IT) platform to take care of operations, a management information system and so on.

“I have already told the Chairman, Railway Board, to nominate a person who will implement it in the shortest possible time. We will select one of the top five vendor companies in the country and it will be our technology partner in the process,” he said.