The National Rail Plan has been announced in the Rail Budget. Under this, a commitment has been made to complete important projects in a time-bound manner. The objective of this scheme is to revive the economy by strengthening the railways from an economic and commercial point of view by 2030.
The total capital expenditure of Rs 2.15 lakh crore has been allocated to the Indian Railways in the Union Budget for the financial year 2021-22. This is 33 per cent higher than the previous year. This includes gross budgetary support (GBS) of Rs 1,07,300 crore. In addition, the government has announced the National Rail Scheme for 2030, which will meet future needs. It lays emphasis on the development of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) and the electrification of tracks.
Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Union Budget-2021 is historic for Indian Railways. The budget focuses on railway infrastructure projects. The largest capital expenditure will not only revive the economy but will act as a catalyst in driving the railways towards self-sufficient India. By 2023, the Indian Railways will be 100 per cent electrified and have a zero carbon emission network by 2030. Also, the railway is moving towards big schemes like modernization, easy ticket booking, online freight services. Thus, Indian Railways is fast on its way to becoming a 'Future Ready' network.
According to Railway Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sunit Sharma, this budget is completely different, out of the box and futuristic.
For the first time, such a large allocation has been made to the Railways. This is the budget to transform the railway.
Emphasis has been laid on the implementation of railway facilities in it. The total capital expenditure was allocated to the Railways by Rs 1,61,42 crore in 2020-21, including a budgetary support of Rs 70,250 crore, internal resources of Rs 7,500 crore and Rs 83,292 crore. Income from non-budget sources was included. This time the total capital expenditure has been allocated to Rs 2,15,058 crore. This time the budgetary support is more than Rs 37,050 crore more than last year. Despite the Corona epidemic, there is a remarkable indication of the progress being made for the infrastructure projects of the Indian Railways.
Sharma said that in the new budget, the highest amount of Rs 40,932 crore has been allocated for new rail routes so far for capacity addition. This amount was Rs 26,779 crore in the ending financial year and Rs 26,971 crore in the financial year 2019-20. Similarly, there is a provision of Rs 26,116 crore for the doubling / tripleting of railroads. This figure was Rs 22,231 crore in 2020-21 and Rs 21,545 crore in 2019-20. Apart from this, a provision of Rs 5,263 crore has been made for the development of traffic facilities, Rs 7,122 crore for over-bridge or underpass and Rs 37,270 crore for investment in railway undertakings. That is, these items have been increased by 108 per cent, 13 per cent and 138 per cent respectively. In railway undertakings, Rs 14,000 crore will be given to National High Speed Rail Corporation and Rs 16,086 crore to the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited. At the same time, Rs 12,985 crore has been given for projects in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and North-East.
According to Sharma, the operating ratio is estimated to be 96.96 percent in the ending financial year, while the target is to keep the operating ratio up to 96.15 percent in FY 2021-22. According to the budget figures, the estimated revenue of Rs 67,500 crore from passengers and other means was estimated in 2020-21, which was fixed at 16,500 crore in the revised estimate. This target has been set at Rs 67,200 crore in the new budget. Similarly, the revenue from freight is estimated at Rs 1,37,810 crore.
After the closure of passenger services due to the lockdown in the Corona era, the railways paid attention to parcel and freight services. In the last year, the Railways has rapidly completed the track and other necessary maintenance and upgradation works and 1,280 km out of 1,612 km on the Golden Quadrilateral and Golden Diagonal (GQ-GD) route. Maximum speed increased to 130 km on the long route. Earned historical achievement by doing hourly. In the next phase, the target is to increase the speed limit to 160 kmph on the GQ-GD route, which will be completed by 2025-26.
Indian Railways has started operation of Kisan Rail on 18 routes so far with various stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture, State Governments and local bodies. The first Kisan Rail Service was flagged off on 7 August 2020 between Devlali (Maharashtra) and Danapur (Bihar). As of 22 January 2021, 157 Kisan Rail services have been started, carrying more than 49,000 tonnes of freight. The Kisan Rail is operated according to the fixed timetable. To ensure that there is no obstruction or delay in their route, it is monitored closely.
This time the budget has given special attention to the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) under construction for the railways considered as milch cows. Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. in the first phase. (DFCCIL) 1,504 km The long western DFC and the eastern DFC (including the PPP section of the Sonnagar-Dankuni section, 1,856 km route) are under construction. EDFC is commencing from Sahnewal near Ludhiana, which will pass through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand and end at Dankuni in West Bengal. The Western Corridor will connect Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Mumbai. This 2,800 km long corridor will pass through Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is being seen as a 'game changer' in India's economic development. At present, operations have started on two sections of about 650 km, at which the average speed of goods trains is 90 km per hour, which is higher than the average speed of Rajadhani Express. The target is to open Eastern and Western DFCs by June 2022. DFCCIL has been allocated Rs 16,086 crore in the budget for the completion of DFC work soon and construction of the other three DFCs.
In the new fiscal, the 263.7 km long Sonnagar-Gomoh section of the Eastern DFC will be started with public-private partnership, while the 274.3 km section of Gomoh-Dankuni will also be started early. Railways plan to build several other DFCs for the future. Of these, the eastern coastal DFC will go from Kharagpur to Vijayawada, the east-western DFC will go from Bhusawal to Kharagpur via Dankuni and the north-south DFC will run from Itarsi to Vijayawada.
According to the Railway Minister, once the DFC starts operations and DFCCIL starts making a net profit, the monetization of assets will be done in a phased manner through the public listing and gradual disinvestment. The government plans to monetize DFC and through it raise money from the market and provide more rail facilities to the public. He said that the non-railway DFC is being constructed with the financing of Japan and the World Bank. A separate undertaking of the Ministry of Railways is making it. Had it been part of the railways, the debt burden would have come on the railways. DFC can be monetized in the future after completion and in the event of profit. This will not put a financial burden on the Railways and someone else will bear the burden of debt. Revenue from this will provide resources to increase the railway passenger network and facilities of the public. The entire plan is being made in such a way that maximum service can be done to the public. Railways are the heritage of the nation and the property of the people. It will always be the pride of India and the pride of the people.
According to the senior officials of the Railways, a plan in this regard is being prepared with the NITI Aayog. The DFC's monetization framework has not been finalized yet. However, the officials hoped that the monetization of DFC is expected to fetch a huge amount, which will be spent in making other DFCs and other projects.
According to the Railway Minister, the goal is to fully electrify broad gauge lines by 2023. By the end of this year, the electrification of 46,000 km of the route will be completed i.e. 72 percent of the electrification of rail routes will be completed. According to the Railway Minister's National Rail Scheme, by 2030 Indian Railways will become a rail network with zero carbon emissions. This will be the first railway in the world to achieve this goal. This time the budget has approved the construction of new 3-tier air-conditioned coaches with an emphasis on passenger amenities and safety. These coaches have been made more comfortable, which will also have more seats. Similarly, plans have been given to launch new LHB VistaDome coaches on tourist routes. Also, it has been decided to introduce an automated safety system 'T-CAS' on high-density routes.
To promote rail infrastructure and build a network, Railways have identified 56 projects in various zones of the country, which will be completed by February-March 2021 and FY 2021-22. Overall, 156 percent more has been allocated for traffic facilities this time than last year, while the amount fixed for new routes has been increased by 52 percent. Apart from these major projects, for the convenience of the public, Railways will complete the construction of more than 1200 ROBs, RUBs and subways this year. These ROBs / RUBs are important for cities and other regions. Currently, the total number of ROBs / RUBs in the country is 14,000. The thrust of the Annual Plan 2021-22 is on infrastructure development, construction enhancement, development of terminal facilities, speeding up of trains, signal system, improvement in facilities of passengers/users, safe work of up / down road bridges etc. The Railway Minister said that the decision on general rail services will be taken only after consulting other stakeholders. For this, the status of Covid-19 is being monitored. He said that Indian Railways is making efforts to provide facilities for passengers and other customers by various means. He gave the example that the government does not have Rs 5000-6000 crore for the redevelopment of railway stations in Delhi and Mumbai. But on the 'Cross Subsidy Model', it will develop the New Delhi Railway Station complex as a full and integrated transport hub, where all types of transport facilities will be available. Under this model, the Railways will not give their land or property to anyone, rather they will be allowed to use the property through a license. The property will remain with the railway. This will lead to the rejuvenation of that area. Large towers will be built in this area and the station will be developed with the proceeds from it.
The Railway Minister says that the management mantra of Indian Railways is to prioritize, allocate resources and provide them speedy completion. The budget focuses on completing projects rather than announcing new projects. Railways have identified high-risk and risk projects, multi-tracking projects, connectivity projects and national projects in capacity addition projects on HDN / HUN routes out of the 513 projects currently underway. Fund allocation and targets are planned for the next 4 years. All high risk projects will be completed by March 2022, while others will be completed by March 2024.
The government and experts are hopeful that with this increase in capital expenditure, Indian Railways will become the engine of the progress of the country's economy. The thrust of the Annual Plan 2021-22 is on infrastructure development, including enhancement, development of terminal facilities, speeding up of trains, signal system, improvement of facilities of passengers/users, road safety works above or below bridges and so on. In order to provide modern facilities to the passengers, Indian Railways has bid a tender of Rs 22,11,64,59,644 to the indigenous company Medha Servo Drives Limited for Vande Bharat trains. Under this, train design, development, construction, supply, integration, testing, and IGBT-based 3-phase propulsion, control and 44 racks each for 16 cars will be built. These will be constructed in three production units of the railway. Under this, 24 racks will be made in ICF, 10 racks in RCF and 10 racks in MCF. Their supply will be in due time. The first 2 prototype racks will be available in 20 months, after that, considering their success, the Railways will have to deliver an average of 6 racks every quarter. Also, there will be a 5-year contract with the company to maintain them. For the first time, the requirement equal to 75 percent of the total value in the tender will be met from the local level. This initiative is expected to give impetus to the 'Self-reliant India' campaign.
Indian Railways has formulated a 'National Rail Plan' to address its capacity deficiencies by 2030 and to increase average participation in the freight ecosystem. The objective of this long-term plan is to increase the railway's network capacity, facilities and average share in the business. Under this scheme, a target has been set to complete important projects in a time-bound manner. Railways plans to develop more than demand capacity by 2030, which will be able to meet the requirements by 2050. Also, the plan aims to reduce the carbon emissions and increase the average share of railways in freight traffic to 45 from the current 27 percent by 2030. In addition, increasing the average speed of goods trains from the current 22 km per hour to 50 km per hour has to reduce the time taken for freight. That is to reduce the total cost of rail transport by about 30 percent and transfer the profit from it to the customers.