Bud­get Ad­dresses Key Is­sues, Challenge is Im­ple­men­ta­tion

A pos­i­tive fea­ture is that phys­i­cal tar­gets for 2016-17 have ei­ther been achieved or ex­ceeded; there is great need for in­vest­ment in safety

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

against 2,800 km in 2016-17. He also ex­pects 10% in­crease in through­put ca­pac­ity over the next three years.

A pos­i­tive fea­ture is that phys­i­cal tar­gets for 2016-17 in case of new lines, gauge con­ver­sion, and ac­qui­si­tion of rolling stock have been ei­ther achieved or ex­ceeded.

An is­sue of ma­jor con­cern in re­cent months has been rail­way safety. There have been 94 con­se­quen­tial train ac­ci­dents dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, marginally higher than last year. The num­ber of ac­ci­dents per mil­lion train trips con­tin­ues at a level of about 0.11, which is bet­ter than many ad­vanced rail­way sys­tems. But these ac­ci­dents have re­sulted in over 200 lives be­ing lost. In this re­gard, the an­nounce­ment for cre­at­ing a ‘Rail San­rak­sha Kosh (safety fund) of ₹ 1 lakh crore over the next five years is wel­come.

There is a need for greater in­vest­ment in safety, in­clud­ing timely re­place­ment of over­aged as­sets, in­tro­duc­ing im­proved sig­nalling sys­tems, early in­tro­duc­tion of the train col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tem, coaches with anti-climb­ing fea­tures, im­proved sys­tems for timely flaw de­tec­tion in rails and wheels, and im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of the Kakod­kar com­mit­tee, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to cre­at­ing In­sti­tu­tions for re­search. The min­is­ter men­tioned elim­i­na­tion of un­manned level cross­ing gates by 2020 and seek­ing in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to im­prove safety sys­tems of In­dian Rail­ways.

An­other mat­ter of con­cern is a short­fall in orig­i­nat­ing freight traf­fic, which was 53 mil­lion tonnes less than the tar­get as of Jan­uary 20, 2017, and 5.4 mil­lion tonnes less than the year­ago pe­riod. This is com­pounded by a de­cline in lead of freight con­sign­ments to 563 km from 602 km last year. To be fair to the rail­ways, de­cline in freight vol­umes is pri­mar­ily due to a rig­or­ous ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion scheme in­tro­duced in the link­ages for move­ment of coal.

One must also keep in mind that trans­port is a ‘de­rived de­mand’ and freight traf­fic vol­umes are de­pen­dent to a great ex­tent on eco­nomic growth.

The min­is­ter cor­rectly iden­ti­fied the need for rail­ways to pro­vide end-to-end ser­vice to cus­tomers by in­te­grat­ing with lo­gis­tics part­ners and cater­ing to new com­modi­ties such as trans­porta­tion of per­ish­able goods.

From a pas­sen­ger per­spec­tive, re­moval of ser­vice charge on re­served tick­ets should give some re­lief. The an­nounce­ment that 25 sta­tions will be taken up for re­de­vel­op­ment in 2017-18, all coaches shall be pro­vided with bio toi­lets in the next few years, launch­ing a sin­gle-win­dow griev­ance han­dling mech­a­nism for coaches, and the con­tin­u­a­tion of the clean­li­ness ini­tia­tive should help in im­prov­ing the qual­ity of travel in trains.

There ap­pears to be a good ap­pre­ci­a­tion of prob­lems be­ing faced and where the so­lu­tions lie. The challenge is its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

FM Jait­ley cor­rectly iden­ti­fied the need for rail­ways to pro­vide end-to-end ser­vices to cus­tomers by in­te­grat­ing with lo­gis­tics part­ners

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