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Rlys to plant jatropha for captive use — Minister seeks private participation

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Railways, now, annually spends more than Rs 4,000 crore on their diesel requirements, and after the recent hikes in prices of diesel, have started to think of alternative fuels to reduce this cost burden.

Kolkata , Oct. 19

INDIAN Railways has chalked out plans to commercially develop surplus railway land through the newly set up Railway Land Development Authority. This is part of the aggressive marketing practices being adopted by the Indian Railways to augment income, for providing greater passenger amenities and safer travel.

It is also working on a plan to utilise the arid and semi-arid surplus land belonging to the organisation outside the station areas for planting of jatropha trees for generating bio-diesel for captive consumption. Railways, now, annually spends more than Rs 4,000 crore on their diesel requirements, and after the recent hikes in prices of diesel, have started to think of alternative fuels to reduce this cost burden.

Participating in an interactive session on "Indian Railways: The road ahead," organised by the Merchants Chamber of Commerce here on Wednesday, Mr R. Velu, Union Minister of State for Railways, said the railways themselves would like to run the plants, investments for which have to come in through the Public-Private Partnership initiative.

Pointing out that the land identification exercise for jatropha tree planting was now on, he said some 75 hectares have already been identified. Some of these lands could even be along the railway tracks, as jatropha trees can be grown anywhere. On the proposed Rs 22,000-crore dedicated Mumbai-Delhi-Kolkata freight corridor project (freight trains will be run at a speed of 100 km an hour), under Japanese assistance, the Minister said it was not a distant dream, but a distinct reality. He said the full logistics study for the ambitious project was not yet ready, and survey work for the track construction has to be taken up first.

Citing some of the new initiatives to augment income to attract greater customer patronage for freight loading, such as Wagon Investment Scheme, Engine on Load Scheme, liberalised siding rules and introduction of a Tatkal scheme for freight, Mr Velu said railways was still the most reliable mode of transportation for long haul, both for passenger movement and freight loading. He, however, stressed on greater rail-road linkages, as part of a larger inter-modal transportation system for the country.

Citing the freight-loading system now as quite customer-friendly because of the introduction of the new schemes, he sought greater stress on dedicated warehousing at siding points, for which public-private initiative was needed.

He also urged the user business community to participate in the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd proposals, for improved port connectivity.

The wagon investment scheme, according to the Minister, will not only ensure rebates in rates for customers, but also provide the advantage of guaranteed rakes.

According to Mr R.R. Bhandari, GM, South Eastern Railway, participants can own wagons in units of rake load (60 Box N or 40 covered wagons comprise a single rake), with each costing Rs 12 crore. The freight component for an investor will come down by 10 per cent for 10 years (for open wagons), and 10 per cent for 15 years for covered wagons, with a minimum of four rakes (covered wagons) assured.

Mr Shyam Kumar, General Manager, Eastern Railways, commenting on the commercial use of surplus railway land, said the money realised through such sale will be invested for developing the mega railway terminals in the country, starting with the 100-year-old Howrah Station. He said that Eastern Railways has also introduced new schemes to handle smaller traffic.

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