Minister to cut short list of non-remunerative railway projects in Railway Budget

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railways minister DV Sadananda Gowda wants to chop down the long list of non-remunerative pending projects that have been bleeding the railways and choking funds for urgently required infrastructure schemes.

A total of 406 projects for constructing 43,982 kilometres of tracks at a cost of `1,85, 221 crore have been pending — some for over three decades. The eastern states of West Bengal and Bihar are at the top of the pending list.

In her term as the railways minister, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee announced projects worth approximately `80,000 crore for West Bengal. Her predecessor and RJD leader Lalu Prasad had announced projects worth almost Rs. 50,000 crore for Bihar. “The populism of past railways ministers have wrecked havoc on finances,” an official said.

For a majority of such projects announced mostly in the era of ‘coalition politics’ in past decades, the Rate of Return (RoR) — indicator of the project’s commercial viability — is calculated as being in the negative.

For example, the RoR for the Etawah-Mainpuri line in Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh’s bastion in Uttar Pradesh is indicated at minus 27%. The Nagal Dam-Talwara project in Punjab envisaging construction of 83.74 kilometres of new lines — sanctioned in 1981-82 — also has a negative RoR. In the 33 years of its sanction, less than half of the project’s cost has been used up.

“The railways minister had instructions sent out to the zonal railway managers, asking them to draw up a priority list on pending projects, while indicating certain projects that can be scrapped,” sources said.