Though, Suresh Prabhu offered to resign in light of recent train accidents, in his two years of tenure, the Rail Minister was seen bringing various innovative reforms in IR which were passenger-friendly, cost-effective, innovative and progressive! Here is a Review why he deserves full scoring!
According to a survey in the form of opinion polls done by RailNews on its most popular globally recognised online news portal, 77% of India believes Suresh Prabhu did a decent job with Railways.
Despite having offered to resign recently in light of the increasing number of train accidents, in his tenure of two years Prabhu was seen to have brought passenger friendly reforms in the country’s largest public sector enterprise. He has brought in multiple reforms in the Indian Railway in various sectors which were passenger-friendly, cost-effective, innovative and progressive in nature. The kind of transformation he has brought in the Indian Railways is too far sighted and the benefits of the same will be reaped by the generations to come. A review on his reforms:
- Merging of Railway Budget with the Union Budget: The Railway Budget was presented every year, a few days before the Union budget of India, till 2016. The Government on 21 September 2016 approved merger of the Rail and General budgets from succeeding years, ending a 92-year-old practice of a separate budget for the nation’s largest transporter. The last Railway Budget was presented on 25 February 2016 by Mr. Suresh Prabhu.
- Initiatives for Introduction of High Speed Trains in India: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi approved the choice of Japan to build India’s first high-speed railway. Suresh Prabhu has done remarkable effort in fulfilling the task of initiative the process of rolling out of Bullet Train in India and accordingly the related administrative works have been shaped up during his tenure. The planned rail would run some 500 km (310 mi) between Mumbai and the Ahmedabad, at a top minimum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph). Under the proposal, construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2023. It would cost about ₹980 billion (US$15 billion) and be financed by a low-interest loan from Japan. India will use the wheel-based 300 km/hr HSR technology, instead of new maglev 600 km/hr technology of the Japan used in Chūō Shinkansen. India is expected to have its HSR line operational from 2025 onwards.
- Introduction of Accrual Accounting System on Indian Railways: The worldwide trend of shifting from Cash based Accounting to Accrual based Accounting is a key building block in progress towards the broader context of public sector Accounting Reform. Being a Government undertaking, IR does not follow practices in accounting which aid detailed assessment of unit costs. Government accounting system in India, in all three tiers of Governance, i.e., the Union, States and Local bodies including Autonomous or Statutory Bodies, is pre-dominantly on Cash based Accounting system. The basic principles of government accounting are enunciated in the General Financial Rules and other related legislations, manuals, etc. In recent times, there has been a paradigm shift in the priorities of public finance management from identifying resources of public finance management to fiscal prudence, efficiency and transparency in public spending. These shifts in priorities have been reflected in initiatives such as the Fiscal Responsibility & Budget Management Act and Outcome Budget. It is felt that there is a need for Financial Reporting to be in sync with the shift in priorities of Public Finance. In order to achieve this, Accounting systems the world over are being revisited with an emphasis on transition from rules to standards based Accounting and migration from Cash to Accrual based system of Accounting. Accrual Accounting provides meaningful information both for accountability and decision-making. Ministry of Railways have periodically examined the existing Accounting System of Indian Railways with a view to improve the quality of financial reporting. However, a decisive thrust towards Accrual Accountinghas been provided by the Hon’ble MR, articulated through his Budgets in 2015-16 and 2016-17. As a result, transition to Accrual Accounting has been adopted as one of the Mission areas aimed at transforming the financial and operating landscape of IR. The central theme in Accrual Accounting involves recording financial transactions in the accounting period in which they accrue and arise, whether or not a receipt or payment occurs. In contrast, Cash basis of accounting records revenue and expenditure only when the money is received or paid out. Thus the main difference between Accrual and Cash basis of Accounting is the timing of the recognition of revenue and expenses.
- Ending Dependence on State DISCOMs for Electricity and status at par with DISCOMs: Railways aims to reduce its energy bill by Rs 3,000 crore through the plan. Suresh Prabhu worked aggressively towards saving its annual Energy Bill and ending dependence on state DISCOMs; and have planned to expand its own power transmission lines by an additional 8,500 km through Public Private Partnership (PPP) along with investment through railways’ Capex. According to a document titled “IR’s Energy Policy and Management”, which was released on 3 November 2016, the Railways has taken up construction on following routes—Allahabad-Mughalsarai (160km), Mughalsarai-Howrah (700km), Mughalsarai-Son Nagar (130km), Delhi-Bharuch (1,100km), Delhi-Chennai (2,200km), Howrah-Mumbai (2,000km) and in South East Central Railway Zone (500km). The national carrier, which consumes 18 billion units of electricity, spends around Rs 10,000 crore on its electricity bill annually and spent Rs 9,200 crore the previous financial year. IR following the nod given by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) in 2015 also acquired the status of deemed distribution licence under the Electricity Act, 2003 bringing railways on a par with DISCOMs. At present the national transporter is working on setting up transmission lines across the dedicated freight corridor. It plans to create a network of transmission lines across the diamond quadrilateral as well. The Railways also plans to set up additional 500 km of transmission lines along South East Central Railway Zone. Towards realisation of this objective, Suresh Prabhu initiated setting up 400 km of Railways own transmission lines from Dadri to Kanpur, and additional 200 Km from Kanpur to Allahabad. Transmission lines from Sonnagar to Mughalsarai will be another 360 km in the pipeline. Another 500 km of lines are also be set up under SER by RVNL. The transporter is also working on a mega 41,000 crore energy saving plan over the next decade.
- High-speed WiFi Internet in 400 highest Revenue yielding Railway Stations: Suresh Prabhu has introduced High speed WiFi Internet in 400 highest revenue yielding Railway Stations of India. The project called RailWire, was launched in collaboration with Google and RailTel (a Telecom PSU under Ministry of Railways). The project had already been rolled out successfully in approximately 150 Stations and by end of 2018, Ministry of Railways will cover the target of 400 Railway Stations.
- Laying of new Railway Lines, Doubling Works and Electrification: Laying of new railway tracks has doubled in the past three years if compared to the erstwhile Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. Since 2014-15, Railways had commissioned 1,983 km in 2014-15 and a 2,828 km in 2015-16 by way of new lines, gauge conversion and doubling of tracks. Notably, Suresh Prabhu has adopted a new metric. Since 2014-15, Railways has been measuring its achievements on the basis of how many kilometres of lines were “commissioned”. Earlier, it used to be how many kilometres were physically constructed during a particular financial year. While the Commissioner of Railway Safety would have given a safety certificate for passenger trains to run on the line, the running of freight trains does not require any such safety certificate. All our broad gauge lines will be electrified which will help in reducing emissions. Suresh Prabhu led Rail Ministry had fast-tracked the electrification of rail lines works and in fact, doubled the pace. Suresh Prabhu asserted that the Railways reached a new record in terms of “electrification, laying of new lines, track-doubling works. Prabhu also underlined the importance of sanctioning the work of track-doubling aggressively and in the last two-and-a-half years, sanctioned a 12,500 km of track-doubling work (in the last 75 years, the Congress led government covered only 15,000 km). This is crystal clear indication of the stand Suresh Prabhu has taken while improving the track network.
- Cleanliness in Railways: Suresh Prabhu led Indian Railways gave Special Focus on Cleanliness at Railway Stations and in trains throughout the ‘Swachhta Pakhwada’, through out the nation every year between August 16 to 31. He has also directed that officers and staff of all departments should be made aware of this campaign and should be substantially involved in various activities during ‘Swachhta Pakhwada’.
- Integrated Mobile App: Suresh Prabhu pioneered for launch of an integrated mobile application to cater to various passenger requirements, including ticket booking, inquiry, on-board cleaning and ordering meal on a single platform code named as “Rail SAARTHI” (synergised advanced application rail travel help and information). This App will also cater for various other needs such as safety for women, complaint facility and suggestion for improvement.
- One-ICT and IT Revolution in Indian Railways: Suresh Prabhu initiated ambitious “Big Data” convergence plan called “One-ICT” to enhance and modernise services and operations. The One-ICT program will enable the Indian Railways to meet global benchmarks. Global bids inviting participation from transportation and IT companies. Prior to One-ICT the various applications have mostly functioned as silos and have not added enough value to the business of running trains. One-ICT, besides bringing about vast improvements in operational efficiency, will work as a one-stop-solution IT platform to unlock the business potentials of the Indian Railways by optimising freight and passenger operations too. As part of the same, Railways’ launched various IT enabled Services – one among them is the “Digital Contract” – a system of Digitisation of Railways’ supply chain across all Zones, to ensure greater transparency and ease of doing business. The system digitises processes like bill submission, inspection, dispatches, receipt, bill passing, payments and warranty monitoring and enables use of analytics for increasing supply chain efficiency in real time. With 100 percent e-tenders and e-auctions already assimilated into the system, railways is taking these initiatives to achieve seamless flow of material, finances and information. Self-aware” trains – or the “super-brain” concept for locomotive management – are among the new rail technologies being experimented under One-ICT.
- Cashless Railway Transactions: As on date, 58 per cent of rail travellers are practising the usage of IT to book train tickets. There are 23 million passengers who travel by Railways every day and the Cashless Railway transaction has been highly successful during Suresh Prabhu’s tenure. A large number of POS Devices were deployed all over the Railway Stations in the country during his tenure. This has facilitated the passengers to move with less cash during the train journeys.
- Mulling the proposal to link Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal: Suresh Prabhu led Indian Railways initiated the proposal to link Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal with Rail network as India has very cordial relations with those countries and helping to connect those countries with railway lines will not only increase interaction, tourism, trade, employment and connectivity for those countries with India, but also empower the region with greater connectivity. Suresh Prabhu said that sectors like Horticulture, Floriculture, Handicraft, Industry, Agriculture, Goods and other allied markets in those countries will get benefited in the region and importantly gets financial empowerment while quickly selling their products in a bigger market like India. The Railway lines will enhance the bilateral relationships between those countries too for a peace and stable region, he said, further adding that cement, fertilisers, steel industries in those countries are also more likely to be benefitted from this policy.
- Launching of Vistadome Coaches: India’s first train with glass-domed ceiling, 360 degrees reclining passenger seats were also launched successfully by Suresh Prabhu for giving more delightful travelling experience to Railway passengers and to promote tourism.
- Book-now-Pay-later-Service for TATKAL Bookings: The latest reform introduced by Suresh Prabhu was that of the book-now-pay-later service for tatkal bookings offered by IRCTC. The traffic on the portal, which was earlier plagued by a multitude of issues, was seen growing as a result of the reform.
- IRCTC onboard catering: Yeah, this is one serious affair, where government need to look into. For a trial basis catering is made optional on selected premium trains. The four premium pairs of trains where the trial is to be conducted are Nizamuddin-Mumbai Central (12953-12954) August Kranti Rajdhani, New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani (12309-12310), Pune-Secunderabad Shatabdi Express (12025-26) and Howrah-Puri Shatabdi Express (12277-12278). IRCTC also plans to serve local cuisines to passengers onboard (Will be a big relief from undercooked chapatis!)
- Introduction of New Trains series: 4 New trains series were introduced to run on various Zonal Rail systems – one for unreserved passengers and three for reserved ones – they are:- Humsafar Express: A fully AC train with optional service for meals; Tejas Express: It will showcase the future of train travel in India with operating speeds of 130 kmph; Uday Express: Overnight double-decker train, which will run on the busiest of routes. It will have 40% more passenger capacity and Antyodaya Express: A superfast train for those travelling on long routes. Will be fully unreserved.
- Varied Food Options: Passengers would be able to order pizzas and burgers on the Indian Railways website. Dominos, KFC would be setting up their restaurants at stations.
- Social Media Connect: I am sure, if you are reading this, you must have heard the heroic deeds of our Railway Minister, addressing problems of passengers in real time using twitter handle RailMinIndia. Issues ranging from overcharging of Rail Neer to cleaning of dirty coaches have been taken care of just by a small tweet. So folks, keep tweeting, you never know Prabhu tumhari bhi sun le!
- Booking Capacity: Booking tatkal e-tickets is no longer a dream. No more woes of “paise kat gaye lekin ticket book nahi hua”. IRCTC has increased its e-ticket booking capacity many folds. The IRCTC’s website is now capable of booking 7200 e-tickets per minute. Yes, with all that jazz during booking timings you need to believe me on this!
- Dedicated freight corridor: Railways have started building railways tracks dedicated to goods trains. This will speed up the delivery time taken by railway transport. I guess we can safely assume now that passenger trains won’t be stopped now to make way for goods trains.
- Personal Mail to All IRCTC Users: It’s rare that a Union Minister of Cabinet Rank sends an email to citizens of a Country listing their achievements towards a sense of responsibility to keen the citizen informed of the actions taken to improve the services. That’s exactly what Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways has done! Since he took over as the Railway Minister, Indian Railways has seen numerous changes and it is quite evident from hundreds and thousands of Social Media updates that we see. The mail sent to all IRCTC users, first talks about the challenges the ministry faced with overstretched infrastructure, inadequate carrying capacity and huge unmet passenger demand. However, over a two-and-half year period they seem to have turned things around to a large extent.
- Infrastructure Boost: A capital expenditure of Rs.94,000 Cr in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of Rs.46,000 Cr. has been spent. a 2,828 kms of broad gauge lines were commissioned in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of 1,528 kms. Also, 1,730 kms of electrification completed in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of 1184 kms and 545 kms broad gauge lines commissioned in North Eastern India in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of 110 kms.
- Energy Efficiency measures, Clean Fuel and one-third Reduction in Emissions by 2030: Even though Indian Railways is 12 times more energy efficient in freight traffic and three times more in passenger traffic compared to roadways, use of renewable sources of energy have been aggressively pursued and promoted by Suresh Prabhu for which a big target has been set to achieve 1000 Mw of solar power and 170 Mw of wind power installed capacities so as to reduce carbon footprint, and hence a low carbon growth strategy has been adopted to reduce emission intensity by 33 per cent by the year 2030 with 2025 as the base year by improving traction fuel and energy efficiency.
- Water Conservation: On the water front, the Indian Railways has decided to recycle water, promote rain water harvesting systems and revive of water bodies in Railway areas across the country. Towards this objective, various water bodies were recharged on the Indian Railways (example: Ancient Water Well built during Kakatiya Dynasty which was lying dry in 2016 in the Railway area at Moula-Ali in Secunderabad was revived and recharged by SCR). The Indian Railways will be saving Rs 300 crore a year through a concerted effort to conserve water and restore water bodies on rail land across the country, said Suresh Prabhu. It has set a target to recycle 20 crore litres per day. The installed capacity of recycling 1 crore liters per day is being enhanced to 3.5 crore litres per day by the end of 2017 through a concerted effort. Once the recycling potential of 20 crore litres per day is achieved, the Railways shall save Rs 300 crore per year only on its water bill, apart from saving precious water resources. Water recycling plants provided already at 30 locations saving 12 million litres of water per day. Water audit is underway at the major water consumption centres and rainwater harvesting systems already provided at more than 2200 locations and are being extended further.
- Backup Signalling System at various strategically important Stations: There are backup systems for each function like electrical interlocking, power supply, panels, signals and others at the station. But there was no backup for the entire train management system at the stations. To provide an alternate to the Route Relay Interlocking (RRI) System that operates rail points and signals, the IR will soon introduce a Backup Signaling System (BBS) for smooth train operations. The move comes after a major fire broke out at the Route Relay Interlocking panel at Itarsi Railway Station in June, 2015 which led to major disruptions in rail traffic with over 2,000 trains cancelled. The new system operates through fibre optics which helps prevent disruptions in train services. This will provide a backup for the entire train route at the railway station. The system is designed in such a way that it may be easy to transfer data to a laptop or a similar equipment and allow trains to pass through. Suresh Prabhu said that the introduction of this system will ensure that at least 90 per cent of trains can be operated when a signal cabin is disabled. The new backup system was developed by the RDSO which will be introduced in all railway stations since the trials conducted at Nishatpura Railway station under West Central Railway was proved to be successful following which the CRS has also approved this newly introduced system. The move is also part of automatic safety systems like protection of trains and warning systems.
- Installation of Bio-toilets in Coaches: There are 55,000 coaches in service on Indian Railways and there is a need to ensure clean and healthy environment by Railways. Suresh Prabhu said that to meet the objective, 2,20,000 bio-toilets were required to be installed in the coaches operating across the country. Under the leadership of Suresh Prabhu around 54,188 bio-toilets had already been fitted in the coaches by 2016 end, and taking into consideration the remaining coaches and resources available with the Railways, Suresh Prabhu said that it would be possible to install bio-toilets in all coaches by 2021-22.
- Jan Aushadhi Stores at 1000 Railway Stations: Indian Railways plans are afoot to open Jan Aushadhi stores at around 1,000 major railway stations across India as part of drive to make quality medicines available at low cost to the public. Efforts were put in place to ensure prescription of generic medicines by doctors for the benefit of patients, poor people in smaller towns and villages.
- Plan to increase Rail Revenue to Rs.2 lakh Crore in next 2 years: Suresh Prabhu has put in place a short-term plan to increase rail revenue to Rs.2 lakh crore in next two years. He said the national carrier is targeting to earn USD 6-7 billion in none-fare revenue in the next few years. The target looks like a tall order given that currently railways has an annual revenue of Rs 1.7 lakh crore and growth in passenger and freight segments have been tepid. However, the minister was hopeful that it could be achieved by detailed planning and a more focused market approach. If achieved, the increased revenue will bring down the railway operation ratio to healthier levels of 90-91%. As per the roadmap, the Railways will launch more super premium trains on high traction routes with fares of these trains are going to be more than those of Rajdhani and Shatabdi. The target is to take the passenger revenue to Rs 56,000 crore from Rs 50,000 crore in the next two years. The railways also plans to increase the number of air-conditioned coaches on existing trains as the demand for the third AC class is rising. Railway wants its trains to be profitable sector wise, just like airlines, and hence is focusing on ramping up capacity in sectors where there is demand and where passengers are willing to pay surge prices during the peak season, the official said. The Railways also wants to wipe out the huge passenger subsidy burden gradually and has been pushing for more funds from the finance ministry. Another target that minister Prabhu has set is to boost non-fare revenues that basically include revenues from advertising and monetisation of rail assets. The target is to get more than 10% of total revenue from this segment, the official said. With its newly launched non fare policy, which includes private brands and e-Commerce firms tying up to use railways’ assets for advertising and other commercial exploitation, railways expects to get more than Rs 20,000 crore annually. It also plans to expand its freight basket to boost revenues. The focus will be to reduce reliance on coal, which is currently almost 45% of total revenue. IR designed new rakes for auto sector which would improve our service and capacity. The demand for iron ore and steel is picking up. I think for the next two years, we’ll see a lot of revenue from these segments. IR is also banking on the two dedicated freight corridors — eastern and western — being built at an investment of Rs 80,000-crore, which will add 3,300 km of fresh capacity to the rail network and will take away almost 70% of freight traffic from the existing network. These freight corridors will decongest the existing network, after which we’ll be able to run semi-high speed trains on corridors such as Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah,” an official from railway traffic services said. “It could lead to a huge boost in passenger revenue,” he added.
- Listing of five PSUs under the Railway Ministry: The Cabinet has approved listing of five PSUs under the railway ministry on stock exchanges. The PSUs under the Ministry of Railways that launched initial public offerings (IPO) were Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, IRCON International Ltd, Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) Ltd, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and RITES Ltd.
- IR’s Long Term Tariff Contracts with discount scheme to boost Freight: Under the Long Term Tariff Contracts (LTTC) policy, customers gets discounts in the range of 1.5-35 per cent based on the incremental growth in volume of cargo. Customers are required to offer at least 1 mt of traffic per annum. The discounts will be based on the gross freight revenue in return for commitment to provide guaranteed traffic by a customer. India Inc is upbeat about the Suresh Prabhu’s plan to have LTTC with consumers in cement, steel and fertiliser sectors, with many companies now willing to bring in more freight traffic to the national transporter. The new plan is likely to bring back the traffic the railways lost in the recent years. It is expecting an increase of six per cent in its freight traffic to 1,165 million tonne (mt) in 2017-18, compared with 1,093.5 mt in FY17. Over a period of 60 years, the share of railways on total freight traffic has declined from 89 per cent to 30 per cent, with the majority of the traffic moving towards the road sector. Pushed by long-term contracts, the segments in which the railways is expecting a major rise in traffic in FY18 include container services (9.9 per cent), pig iron and finished steel (7.52 per cent), coal (6.7 per cent) and iron ore (6.7 per cent). “This (the discount scheme) is a clear effort from the railways to bring back its lost traffic. As of now, about 65 per cent of cement sector traffic is through road and 30 per cent is through rail route, while the remaining five per cent is by water. The new incentives offered may help the cement sector and will bring in additional traffic to railways. The railways is targeting 113 mt traffic from the cement sector following the new scheme. The national carrier had set a target of 110 mt for FY17, but due to decline in infrastructure activities because of demonetisation till recently, it was in the range of only 90-100 mt. While coal constitutes 45 per cent of the railways’ freight traffic share, cement makes up eight per cent, while foodgrain and steel constitute seven per cent each. According to the Revised Estimates for 2016-17, revenue from freight traffic will be Rs 1,08,900 crore. The railways expects it to rise by 8.5 per cent to Rs 1,18,157 crore in FY18, primarily through an increase in cargo volumes. Freight loading is expected to fall marginally to 1,093.5 mt in FY17 from 1,095 mt in FY16. Any such new commitments for cargo movement should not be at the cost of the availability of covered rakes for evacuation of fertiliser from fertiliser plants, which operate round the clock. Of late, fertiliser plants have been facing constraints in timely availability of rakes. About 80 per cent of fertiliser movement take place through the railways, which rakes in revenue of about Rs 7,000 crore annually. For FY18, total coal traffic is expected to be 555 mt, compared to a revised target of 520 mt in FY17. The target from raw materials for steel, pig iron and finished steel for the next financial year comes to around 72 mt, iron ore at 142.75 mt, fertilisers at 54 mt and petroleum products at 45 mt. The railways transports nearly 75-80 per cent of the steel produced in the country. Since the movement of iron ore and steel depend on the quantity of the commodity and the distance covered, it varies from company to company, an expert said. SAIL has had a long-lasting relationship with IR, being both a freight customer and supplier for them. We expect to benefit as and when the guidelines are implemented. SAIL is currently moving 50-60 mt of steel, iron ore and coal through the railways. As we ramp up our production from the current level of 15 mt to 20 mt in the coming years, we expect to add more traffic to the rail network of the country.
Joint Venture MOUs with State Governments: Indian Railways, under the leadership of Suresh Prabhu as the Railway Minister had entered into Joint Ventures established with state Governments to multiply the Railway infrastructure creation and development across the country on cost sharing basis. As on date 21 states have singed the pacts with Railways and other states are about to ink the same shortly.
Apart from the above, various efforts were made by Suresh Prabhu as Union Minister of Railways. like Introduction of Deendayalu Coaches for general class passengers, Single person accountability for all facilities on a train, One of the world’s cheapest travel insurance for our passengers. At a cost of only 92 paise one can get insurance of up to Rs. 10 Lakh, Water vending machines at stations, Reserved accommodation capacity increased to 44.7 Cr from 37.1 Cr, Launch of Janani Sewa: Provision of baby foods at stations, Clean my Coach service for on board housekeeping service, Community partnership for beautifying stations, Complaint resolution through social media, dedicated helpline numbers, New train products : Tejas, Hamsafar, UDAY, Antyoday catering to different requirements of our passengers, largest ever online recruitment exam conducted with over 94 lakh applications, 100% E-procurement of goods implemented to ensure transparency, India’s fastest train Gatimaan Express launched, Trials of Talgo trains capable of running at 200 kmph successfully completed, Key result areas defined for ensuring accountability, objective performance appraisal, Transparent process in key appointments, transfers, promotions, HR audit done for right sizing, Online portal ‘Nivaran’ for employee grievance redressal, Mass mobilisation programs like Swachhta Saptah conducted, Collaboration between India and Japan on Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed Rail project, Collaboration with global players to co-create best-in-class technology and effect modernization of Indian Railways, High speed Wi-Fi at 70+ railway stations across India in partnership with Google, Best-in-class technological solutions for project management and monitoring, Collaboration with premier educational institutes for technology diffusion in Indian Railways, Leveraging technology to ease passengers by providing services like E-catering, E-wheelchair etc, Upgrading IRCTC website handling capacity to 1,20,000 number of simultaneous users, Sale of tickets through ticket vending machines, Ticket booking through international debit/credit cards, Cancellation of PRS tickets through cell phones, Port congestion charges and busy season surcharge dropped, Dual pricing policy of iron ore withdrawn, Siding policy liberalised, Time tabled freight services introduced, Container sector opened up for more commodities, The mail also listed many other initiatives which are currently in process of getting implemented:, Redevelopment of stations into world class modern terminals, A five year investment plan of Rs. 8.56 Lakh Cr for infrastructure augmentation, More structural reforms and creation of new organizations to keep pace with the changing requirements, a big push on enhancing non fare revenue through advertisings, leasing out of spaces etcm Mission ‘Zero Accident’ to further improve safety on Indian Railways, Improved port connectivity to stimulate trade, Two Dedicated Freight Corridors to be commissioned by 2019, All capital cities of North Eastern states to be connected with broad gauge line by 2020, Making Railway tracks 100% human waste discharge free through use of Bio-Toilets, working on the target of 1000 MW solar power generation in next 5 years, Establishment of Rail University as a holistic knowledge centre for Railways, Sale of UTS tickets through handheld terminals and bar coded tickets, LED luminaries at all stations and many more, Suresh Prabhu, Hon’ble Minister of Railways stands top among all the erstwhile Railway Ministers of India.