Railway Minister assures improved Rail Infra Services in Karnataka, Kerala

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu promises WiFi in 200 stations in the coming year, re-affirms his commitment for improved Rail connectivity in Karnataka and Kerala.  Suresh Prabhu urge Banks to prepare business plan to fund rail projects

Thiruvananthapuram: Announcing that he would visit Mangaluru on January 16 to review the ongoing railway projects in the region and ensure speedy completion of the Konkan railway project,  Minister for Railways, Suresh Prabhu maintained on Monday that rail connectivity  in Karnataka was  set to improve significantly with the completion of its ongoing projects.

Inaugurating a rail-over-bridge near the Kapileshwar temple in Belagavi via video-link, the minister claimed the Centre had released money in abundance for railway projects in Karnataka, and it was seeing a new phase of development in the railway sector.

“My department is working briskly to implement all railway  projects , including the one in Whitefield in Bengaluru in association with the state government,” he added, recalling the meetings he had with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Industries Minister, R V Deshpande on the progress of railway projects in the state.

While speaking after jointly dedicating the Women’s Facilitation Centre in Thiruvananthapuram Central and a host of passenger amenities in Kollam, Kannur and Ernakulam Town railway stations along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Mr. Prabhu said that Public sector banks have been told to formulate business plans to fund rail infrastructure projects and put an end to the complaint of neglect towards Kerala by the Railways.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu also dedicated Wi-Fi facilities at six Railway Stations for rail users at Kannur, Ernakulam and Kollam at a function held in Thiruvananthapuram

The Union Railway Minister said the Railways were keen on commencing the projects identified to be taken up on a joint venture mode with the State in 2017. “This will be in addition to the budgetary support and we will partner for station development, new terminals, railway lines and even doubling.”

Acknowledging that Kerala had not got its due over the years for railway network, Mr. Prabhu said the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was rectifying it and had provided ₹1,014 crore budgetary support for 2016-17. The joint venture pact with Kerala shows the spirit of cooperative federalism highlighted by Mr. Modi.

“We will partner with Kerala for development of infrastructure and will leverage the equity by market borrowings,” the Minister said.

The Railways will organise a Round table in February to mobilise funds from outside the budget. A sum of ₹8.5 lakh crore is being pumped into the Railways and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has given ₹1.50 lakh crore. Banks should come forward for funding infrastructure projects. Likewise, pension fund and other unutilised funds can be used. Mr. Prabhu also urged the Chief Minister to tap NRI remittances for the development of the Railway network of the State.

Asserting that the focus was on the common man and enhancing passenger amenities, the Railway Minister said 100 stations had been provided high-speed Wi-Fi already and it would be doubled in 2017. Wi-Fi facility would also be introduced on some trains, he said.

Kerala can also look forward to Hamsafar Express, an air-conditioned train, high-speed Tejas trains and Antodaya Express, an overnight train for the common man. On the Railway Medical College at Railway Hospital Thiruvananthapuram, the Minister said the rules of the MCI were a hurdle and discussions were on with Health Minister. J. P. Nada to overcome it. He said Kerala figured high on the list.

The Union minister said out of the board thinking was needed to mobilise resources and the Railways had set up Non-fare Revenue Directorate already. The attempt was to generate ₹10,000 crore revenue next year for creating more infrastructure facilities.

The Chief Minister, in his address, urged the Railways to take steps to overcome the hurdles in developing the rail network. Minister for Public Works and Railways G. Sudhakaran called for urgent steps to rectify the fissures on the tracks.

Legislators O. Rajagopal, V.S. Sivakumar; General Manager, Southern Railway Vashista Johri; and Divisional Railway Manager Prakash Bhutan; spoke.

Wi-Fi facility, Ladies Waiting Hall and Train Information LED display boards in Kollam, escalator on Platform one in Kannur and Paid air-conditioned hall in Ernakulam Town stations were commissioned through video-conferencing.

“Most railway stations in the  Hubli division of the railways will be developed in the near future,” he promised, urging people to support his government in ensuring early completion of the railway lines and major works announced in its manifesto.

As part of its programme to upgrade facilities for rail users in another programme in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said that 200 more stations and some additional trains would be provided with Wi-Fi in 2017. Dedicating six Wi-Fi facilities to rail users at Kannur, Ernakulam and Kollam at a function here, he said 100 stations had been fitted with Wi-Fi this year and the target was to double this number in 2017. “More trains will also would be provided with Wi-Fi next year,” he said. “The objective is to have Wi-Fi facility in all railway stations in small cities and towns,” he said.

The Minister said steps were also on to construct escalators in stations, he said. Welcoming the Kerala government’s decision to sign a Joint Venture with Railways for development projects in the state, he said that as partners, the railways would be developed in the state. “The Centre and state will have equity in the venture and funds for the projects will be raised through market borrowings with the consent of the state government,” he said.

The resources spent under the JV would be in addition to funds earmarked in the Railway budget, he added. Stating that investment in railway infrastructure can bring development to its optimum level in Kerala, Prabhu said he had asked some banks to prepare a business plan for the state.

Prabhu admitted that there was a lack of railway investment in Kerala and said the NDA government’s move was to reverse that trend. Referring to remittances to the state from Non-Resident Keralites, he said even they could invest in railway projects. “They can develop a railway station”, he said, adding that the key objective was to join hands for development. The Railways was also looking out for resources other than its normal revenue. They were also looking into the possibility of converting its hospitals as medical college hospitals, he said.

Chief Minister Pinrayi Vijayan and G Sudhakaran, PWD Minister and in charge of Railways were among those present.