New Delhi: The government is working to bring faster trains with more facilities while trying to meet the diverse expectations of the society, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Monday as he announced several initiatives like a 'National Plan for Railways' for infrastructure development.
Prabhu told the Rajya Sabha that Railways faces a "paradox" like situation where it is expected to provide services like concessional travel and meet social objectives like a government enterprise but at the same time expected to perform like a commercial company.
The railways, he said, is trying to meet these diverse expectations as he mentioned seven missions including the 'Mission to have zero accidents', 'Mission on Speed' and 'Mission on accounting reform' etc.
He was replying to a debate on the Railways Appropriation Bill which was later approved by the Upper House. The Lok Sabha has already passed it.
Talking about efforts to bring faster trains, the Minister said a Spanish company has been involved in a project to reduce by 5 hours the time taken on the Delhi-Mumbai route. The Spanish company Talgo would bring its trains on an experimental basis for the project, he said.
The Railway minister also mentioned that to meet the demands of various sections, different types of faster trains like Antoday, Humsafar, Tejas, Mahamana, Gatimaan etc are being brought in.
Earlier some opposition members had raised questions about the 'Bullet train' project. Ranee Narah of Congress said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is from Gujarat and Rail Minister from Mumbai, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route had been chosen for the project.
Prabhu said efforts are being made to provide free water which has undergone quality checks and also provide better e-catering facilities.
He announced initiatives like setting up a dedicated body for research and development in railways and creating a 'National Plan for Railways' regarding infrastructure development.
He added that despite having to meet Pay Commission liability and Bonus Act liability, the Railways still has
managed a modest operating ratio.
Prabhu also emphasised that the Infrastructure investment in Railways has gone up considerably and it has touched 1 lakh 31 thousand crore in 2016-17. He said attempt should be made to increase Capital Expenditure to boost our economy.
Prabhu also said that in the coming years entire rail network in North East will be shifted to broad gauge. Some opposition members had claimed that Railways was ignoring the North East.
Referring to the plan to create a R&D body for Railways, Prabhu said NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat would present a report in this regard soon.
The Railway minister also said the amount allocated for doubling work had grown from Rs 3,881 crore to Rs 25,191 crore in two years.
He also claimed that the allocation towards development of railways in various states has been increased.
It has also been decided to create in-cabin toilets for locopilots in trains, he said.
The Railway minister also said that a substantial number of backlog of vacancies of SCs and STs had also been filled up.
Prabhu also talked about the plan to transform 400 railway stations into PPP mode and said the first such contract had been given for the Habibganj station in Bhopal.
He also said that the ministry is working with states to reduce delays because of stoppages.
Earlier, participating in the debate, several members like Vishambhar Prasad Nishad of SP and Ripin Bora (Cong) raised questions about the conditions of railway stations.
Congress members from North east Ranee Narah and Bora had also sought more attention towards the North East.
Narah questioned if there will be no development of the rail network in North East just because there has been no railway minister from the region.
She claimed her party leaders, including former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, had paid a lot of attention to development of railways in the Northeast.
During the debate, Lal Singh Vadodia (BJP) said reservation for railway seats should be provided to former Parliamentarians as well. Several MPs were seen supporting this demand.
Updated Date: May 02, 2016 22:26 PM