Indian Railways – looking forward

Indian Railways Logo  The finance budget for the Indian Railways was presented in the parliament yesterday. It does seem, prima-facie, to be somewhat different from the populist budgets of the last some years. The budgets in the past usually have had a tone of promising a dozen new trains (to friendly states), adding stops to trains passing through the railway minister’s constituency, introducing non-stop trains which travel the speed of a tortoise. You get the picture. But, in the last say twenty years, the only change that I have seen is adding power sockets, and some change in the bathrooms, some of the newer coaches have larger windows. Not much else. But, then I am not an Indian Railways fan and not a frequent traveler either. And this blog post is not about praising the new railway minister or the NDA government either.

So, what does the railway budget contain? It seems to be focused on financial stability, de-congestion, starting to think about customer orientation and safety. The total budget seeks an investment of Rs 8,56,020 crores. Two remarkable directions are allocation Rs 39000 Cr towards connectivity for the East, and J&K, and a whopping Rs 1,99,320 towards network de-congestion. This perhaps does not look too far out, but certainly does look medium term in its perspective.

Why didn’t someone think of re-designing the ladders (to climb to upper births) earlier?

Stability and fiscal prudence

WAP locomotive at Erode junction

De-congestion of the network is a priority and should have been taken up more than a decade ago.

Slew of initiatives around innovation, running a BPR, using of global bench-marks. Essentially a large amount of investment towards revamping management practices, systems, processes, and re-tooling of human resources. There will be an infrastructure fund set up and two existing vehicles will be used to secure loans from the public (bonds, I guess). Two interesting items hidden in the paragraphs are the digitization of land records and responsibility fixing for encroachments and setting up a university for employees in the current fiscal.

De-Congestion

Gauge upgrades in 800 km in this year, adding railway tracks in congested routes (9400 kms), increasing freight capacity, and increasing speed of trains for inter-metro journeys.

Customer Orientation

First class ac ladder to the upper birth

Try climbing the ladder to an upper birth. A herculean task for a senior citizen.

A large number of initiatives in this area including disposable bed linen, cleanliness, introducing hand-held technology, ease of ordering food. All these are easy to think of. What is new is that someone has thought of getting the National Institute of Design to re-design the steps/ ladders used to climb to the upper births. Why didn’t someone think of this earlier? There is more – a large amount allocated to building elevators, and escalators, Braille enabling newer coaches and wider entrances for the differently abled, and start of air-conditioned EMUs in Mumbai.

Then of course the usual of improving stations, wi-fi in a bunch of stations, adding capacity to many of the current trains and the like.

Safety

Train protection and early warning anti-collision systems, radio based signal design for unmanned railway crossings,cctv in trains,

 Budget Highlights, Government Publication

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