Railways back to the Drawing Board on many key Modernisation Plans after Modi rider

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways is evaluating several of its modernisation and capacity addition plans announced in the past few months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the national transporter to pick only those projects that made financial sense and used mostly the existing resources.

During a recent review meeting with the officials of Rail Board, the top decisionmaking body of Indian Railways, the PM asked officials to evaluate the 100% signalling upgradation, electrification, expansion of WiFi, installing escalators among other plans before going ahead with them. According to top officials, Modi is learnt to have said that any project that railways wanted to go ahead with should be financially viable and should only be implemented using the available resources.

In terms of having a 100% new signalling system called the European Train Control System 2, railways was told that such systems should only be installed after extensive trials while keeping the cost in mind. The PM also said that railways should think about using the indigenous technology, if available.

Indian Railways had recently announced moving to the advanced European system, which would allow it to increase the train running capacity on the existing tracks.

The ministry official said that as per the directions of the PM, the evaluation is being carried out. Any new technology will be introduced only if it is proven in Indian conditions and is cost efficient, a view that is shared by rail minister Piyush Goyal, the official said.

On the rail ministry’s plan of 100% electrification of the network, the ministry was told that such a target should be examined with regards to the global practice where the mix of diesel and electric traction is a preferred mode.

“Diesel traction will remain relevant for many areas and premature condemnation of diesel engines must not be done and the legal and financial liability should properly be examined in consultation with the law and finance departments,” the ministry was told.

“We are moving as per budget targets for electrification which for the current year is more than 6,000 km. By 100% electrification, we meant the main lines where the traffic is high and electric traction is more viable,” he said.

Railways had earlier set the target to electrify around 38,000 km of its remaining rail network by 2022. This would have made the entire 66,000 km of rail network fully electrified. Railways had earlier claimed that by phasing out polluting diesel engines, it wold save at least Rs 10,000 crore a year in fuel costs.