Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways & Coal, inaugurates Smart Railway Conclave organised by FICCI, in New Delhi today. In his opening remarks, he reiterated Government’s commitment to ensure a smart Railway and a smart nation so that every citizen of India gets a better future. He also emphasised on smart planning, smart project implementation being put into effect holistically in Railways.
Speaking on the occasion, Piyush Goyal said, “India has undoubtedly the unique opportunity to leapfrog. But before that, some basic elements will have to be sorted out, and that’s what this Government has focused on over the last four years. Over 64 years of Independence till 2014, the infrastructure in Railways growing by merely about 12%. Due to parcelling out small amounts of money over different projects, cost kept escalating. We still have some projects which were started in the Emergency.
There was a total investment in Railways from 2009-14 of ₹ 2.3 lakh crore. The Government has ramped it up to ₹ 5.3 Lakh crores. But it’s not about ramping up, but about how you invest that money. Under the leadership of Prime Minster Shri Narendra Modi, I have the courage of conviction to say that we are influencing the future in a positive, progressive and smart direction. We’ll have to start thinking, planning, and working smartly. I think that’s the change that you would have seen the last 4 years. As they say “Everyone has a sense that right now is one of those moments that we are influencing the future”. With the debate on the bullet train, I believe that it’s our duty to engage with most modern technology and bring it to India and let the people of India enjoy the benefits of the best in class”.
Talking about several initiatives undertaken to transform Railways as a smart transporter, Shri Piyush Goyal said that while deliberating on possibilities and solutions, it is important to keep the practicality in mind.
For Railways, it is a network working 22000 trains a day, chugging from remotest corners and smart solutions have to found within this frame. For punctuality, instead of the station master recording the time, data loggers have been put at interchange points which would be computer generated. A small step, but it brought accuracy and reflected the truth. Between 1st April, 2018 and today, it has improved it to 73-74%.
Indian Railway is working on putting a GPS device on every locomotive so that every train can be tracked on mobile phones knowing exactly where they are. Electrification of Railways has been taken vigorously which will save $2 billion every year. Railways’ engineers have figured out a solution for diesel engines: the cost for overhauling the diesel engine, same or less will be spent on converting it to electric. So without spending a dollar, Railways can have a new engine. Efficient engines with cost efficiency as well, electric engines will have a huge impact on India’s carbon footprint.
The best strategies are being explored so that instead of sudden traffic blocks, Railways can have smarter time tables. With competitive bidding, efficiency takes centre stage both ways, in the Railways and industry. A protectionist approach cannot be adopted because the country is not going to pay for inefficiency.
Railways is focusing on smarter project implementation. Railways is reviewing to engage itself with artificial intelligence. There’s a lot which can be done with data being put to use with predictive maintenance, better monitoring and utilization of assets and better passenger service.
Once, Railways change over to smarter signalling, focus on removing permanent speed restrictions, getting 150,000 bridges audited and improved, there is immense potential in Railways. Indian Railways has also planned to make 6,000 Railway stations to be all Wi-Fi enabled.