Posted In: Devang Chaturvedi . By Journalism student
Indian Railways is expected to get a huge increment of US$150 million from the Asian Development Bank to improve its Freight and Passenger route services. The assistance comes under the aegis of the Railway Sector Investment Program and the implementing agency is the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL).
The program is aimed at improving rail freight and passenger services along some of India’s busiest freight carriage routes which include the Golden Quadrilateral linking the four major metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
Being at the core of the mass Indian freight and passenger transport network the Indian Railways would look at this development with eagerness. With an estimated total of 969.78 million tonnes of freight carriage in the Fiscal year 2011-2012, the Indian Railways has re-asserted its position as the country’s premier transport service provider in the commercial sector.
The program is intended to make optimum usage of the existing physical railway infrastructure in the country through electrification of 640 kilometres of rail tracks and doubling of 840 kilometres of them. Also with installation of modern signalling systems, the delay that the trains face would be reduced. This would propel timely deliverability of freight thus impacting the economic generation in the country in a huge manner. With financial efficiency through accounting reforms also in the pipeline, railway freight services users can expect lower transport and logistics cost.The Railway Vision 2020 underlines the need to remove infrastructure glitches, design and deliver market driven services, reliable operations and build capacity.
Hiroaki Yamaguchi, ADB Principal Transport Specialist says, “This program has the capacity to deliver more energy efficient, safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly rail services along key high density routes,” He further adds, “This in turn will result in the creation of cost-effective opportunities for about 21 million people who will benefit from all aspects of the Railway Sector Investment Program.”
Jaskeerat Singh Arora, a Delhi based transporter sounds apprehensive about the shift of goods services from road to rail due to improved rail freight services. He agrees that unlike the railways, they do not carry a majority of the strategically important cargo like minerals and natural resources, but they do carry a minority of them.
Indian Railways which boasts of the fourth largest Railways network in the world is also in need of constant infrastructural development. D R Sharma, Accounts Manager, RVNL explains it further, “It is entirely the prerogative of the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited to decide whether or not the Indian Railways is in need of financial assistance for infrastructural reforms. Since we are a subsidiary company of the Railways our basic task is to widen infrastructure and once completed it becomes part of the railways.”
He further adds, “Loans like the one extended by the Asian Development Bank are purely for capacity building of the Indian Railways and are principal and interest free. If they involve any kind of repayments, they are taken care by the Indian Railways. Government of India also provides us funds and for this project it has extended us, US$ 644.6 million. Together with ADB’s assistance of US$ 500 million, the project cost is US$ 1,144.6 million.”
The expected completion date of the project is December 2018.