In the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu listed the blueprint for making Indian Railways ‘world class’ and making it an engine of India’s economic growth. The ambitious project that railway ministry has undertaken includes converting the entire network of Indian Railways to broad gauge, electrification of all major routes, upgradation of infrastructure, installing modern signaling system and most importantly, improving the safety of passengers.
While addressing the Lok Sabha, Suresh Prabhu said that his ministry has undertaken the ambitious task of eliminating meter gauge and narrow gauge , replacing them with broad gauge so that the entire nation has a single gauge network. He also discussed about the ministry’s proposal to lay separate tracks for freight traffic (dedicated freight corridors) and increase the commissioning of new railway tracks to at least 3650 km per year.
Stating that passenger safety is the main priority of the railways, he said the latest technology is being introduced to upgrade signalling and ensure safe movement of trains. He also said that the government was working on removing all unmanned level crossings across the country, and replace major railway crossings with flyovers or underpasses.
Emphasizing on the plans of strengthening the railways infrastructure, the minister said all the meter gauge tracks across the Indian Railway network will be converted into broad gauge in the next five years. As of now, there are 3650 kilometre of meter gauge tracks which are to be converted into broad gauge. In a bid to boost the Swachha Bharat Abhiyaan, he said that all trains will be equipped with bio-toilets by October 2, 2019. He also said that majority of the coaches being manufactured now have bio-toilets and the old coaches are being fitted with bio-toilets at a steady pace. Suresh Prabhu specifically mentioned about his ministry’s focus in improving railway infrastructure in the north-east, where entire track of meter gauge will be converted into broad gauge by the end of this year.
Another ambitious plan of Suresh Prabhu is to save Rs 41,000 crore on energy bill in the next 10 years, by intensifying electrification of routes and switching to solar power on stations. The railway ministry has chalked out the plan to double the volume of electrified routes in the next 5 years. The Minister said doubling of rail tracks is another priority of the Railways. To increase the efficiency, punctuality and volume of traffic, about 12,500 km of network has been doubled in the last two years and the government has started the work related to doubling, tripling or quadrupling of routes wherever necessary.
The Railway Minister also said to increase the speed in high-density routes like Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah, the Railway has set aside Rs 20,000 crore and contract for upgradation of the routes will be given to a single agency to ensure smooth implementation. The Minister said a Rs one lakh crore fund has been set up to strengthen safety mechanism of the network. In this context, he said track renewal, driver training, signal upgradation and installation of train protection warning system are being taken up. He also said that the railways have planned to stop the manufacturing of conventional ICF coaches, which are highly unsafe in case of a derailment. The railways have shifted to manufacturing of modern LHB (Linke Hoffman Busch) coaches, which are highly safe, efficient and faster.