The Railways will need to target revenue of Rs 3.5 lakh crore and an investment of Rs 3-lakh crore every year to meet the country’s aspirations, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
During a discussion on the working of the ministry, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw attacked opposition members and past governments, alleging they only talked about vision and preparing concept notes, but did not take any action to implement them.
The minister said that to meet the aspirations of the country, its citizens and the future generation over the next 10 years, the Railways will have to target to ferry 1,000 crore passengers every year from about 800 crore currently, and increasing the cargo load from 140 crore tonne to 300 crore tonne.
”If we won’t do it then we will never be able to cross-subsidize passenger fare,” he said.
Vaishnaw said the cost of passenger fare and services comes to around Rs 1.16 per kilometre but railway charges only 48 paise per kilometre and around Rs 62,000 crore social obligation subsidy is given on passenger fares. ”For this, we will have to increase cargo 2-2.5 times. Not freight charge, (but) volume. We will have to reach a revenue of Rs 3.5-lakh crore and invest Rs 3-lakh crore every year. Then only we will be able to meet the aspirations of this country,” he said. The minister also alleged that past governments lacked the clarity of vision, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a clear decision that the Railways needs to move away from diesel and go for electrification.
”Good that you gave a concept but what work did you do? It’s good that you gave a vision document… but will the country work on the concept? You will have to show the work,” he said, referring to the freight corridor project.
He said that the concept note for the corridor came in 2004, the foundation station was laid in 2006, but not a kilometre of the project was commissioned under the previous government.
”How many kilometres were commissioned? Zero. Only Zero. This was the condition. Today how many kilometres have been commissioned? 1,010 kilometres,” Vaishnaw said.
He said that a ”policy paralysis” situation existed in the entire country under the previous regime and the Railway was affected as well.
”I don’t want to snatch your credit. You have a lot of things to your credit. 2G, coal, commonwealth. We don’t want any of your credit. These statistics are before you,” Vaishnaw said.
Agitated by Vaishnaw’s remarks, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge interrupted his speech briefly.
He said an initiative was taken under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but it was not sufficient to meet the aspirations of the people of the northeast.
The minister said investment in the northeast during 2009-2014 was only Rs 2,122 crore which was increased almost two times by the prime minister to Rs 5,531 crore and it has not stopped there. Vaishnaw said Gandhinagar and Rani Kamalapati railway stations have been developed as world-class railway stations and lessons are being learnt from them to make railway stations in all cities a central place for not just passengers but other people in the city by equipping them with good restaurants and other amenities. The minister alleged that the opposition raises several questions without looking into their own past.
He said the government is bringing the E5 series of bullet trains which are being run at present in Japan. ”Entire civil work, track work are being done by Indian engineers, Indian companies. This is a way to absorb technology. Geo-technical investigation has been done at every 100 kilometres of the entire soil stretch. ”Due to the progress, pillars of around 8 kilometres are getting cast. Pillars for 29 kilometres have been cast. Foundation of close to 80 kilometres have been cast,” Vaishnaw said. He said the target is to make over 5,000 LHB coaches this year which will replace five to six trains every month. About recruitment in railways, Vaishnaw said there were 2,42,709 appointments during 2009-2014 and after that 3,44,646 appointments have been done and recruitment is on for 1,40,713 positions.