Railway Minister reviews status of various development projects, timelines

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 10, 2021

Focus on improving travel experience, technology-driven modernisation, increasing freight share

Soon after taking charge, Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw has started the review process for various development projects of railways and the delivery timelines focussing on further improvement of the travelling experiences of passengers, sources have said. “The Minister conducted a meeting with members of the Railway Board on Friday for a first hand account of the status of important projects and other initiatives of the Ministry and how things were progressing,” a source close to the development told BusinessLine.

56 projects identified

In February this year, Indian Railways identified 56 projects all across the country in various zones to be completed by FY 2021-22 to boost rail infrastructure. Strict timelines have been laid down for the different projects. While 35 of these projects were to be commissioned by June 21, the remaining have various deadlines spread through the year.

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These include projects for railway electrification, doubling, gauge conversion and putting in place new lines considered vital for the much-needed upgradation of rail infrastructure. “The Minister was keen to know how things were progressing related to these projects and asked officers to share ideas on how to move things to the next level,” the source said.

Many railway projects have suffered major delays in the 2015-20 period resulting in blocking of funds, per a CAG report of 2020 due to “inefficiency’’ of Zonal Railways and “weak monitoring’’ at the Railway Board level. Under-utilisation of funds had resulted in avoidable accretion of interest liability for Ministry of Railways, it added. “Audit observed that only 127 (32 per cent) out of 395 EBR (extra-budgetary resources) funded projects were completed till March 2019 due to lack of proper monitoring and control mechanisms,” the CAG report highlighted.

Indian Railways has the highest ever total Plan capital expenditure of ₹ 2,15,058 crore this year of which ₹ 1,07,100 crores for capital expenditure has been allocated in the General Budget, In a major shift, Railways has now decided to focus on the completion of existing projects quickly as well besides simultaneously working on the new projects announced.

Enhancing transparency

The Minister and railway officials decided to give priority to technology driven modernisation of system, processes and infrastructure of the Indian Railways and enhance passenger experience by providing faster, safer, cleaner and more efficient mode of transport.

“There were also discussions around increasing freight share by adjusting customer centric approach and augmenting capacity,” the source said, adding that focus would also be on enhancing transparency and accountability.

Published on July 10, 2021

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