Budget draws 'safety first' strategy for railways with largest ever capex

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Terming that the government’s primary focus on railways is safety and capacity creation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced the highest ever capital expenditure plan in the history of railways is seeing an increase of 13 per cent to Rs 1.485 trillion in 2018-19, as compared to Rs 1.31 trillion during the financial year 2017-18.

“We have given an all-time high allocation to railways and roads. We will be having a safety first policy. A large part of the capex is devoted to capacity creation of 18000 kilometres of doubling, third and four line networks and 5000 kilometers of guage conversion,” Jaitley said. The government’s safety roadmap also include more than 3600 km of track renewal, 4000 kilometers of electrification and elimination of more than 4200 kilometers of unmanned level crossing and covering the entire network under borad guage.

Meanwhile, the ambitious station development taken up by the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) will now be expanded to 600 stations, thereby adding the government’s emphasis on the Rs 1 trillion project.  As per the policy, real estate majors as the developer can use 20 per cent of the redeveloped area in the station premises for residential purposes. The remaining 80 per cent area would be utilised for commercial purposes.

Jaitley also increased the focus on suburban railway expanding of Mumbai and Bengaluru. The Union Budget has declared expansion of Mumbai suburban railways by 90 kilometers at a cost of Rs 110 billion. The country’s overall suburban network will be expanded by 150 km at an expense of Rs 400 billion, with Bengaluru getting Rs 170 billion.

The finance minister stated that more than Rs 50 trillion is required to boost the infrastructure sector in the country to achieve the desired GDP growth.  In addition to this, WiFi and CCTVs will be provided at all trains. “We will also be providing escalators on all the railways stations with a footfall of more than 25,000. Our focus will be on safety, maintenance of railway tracks, increase in use of technology and fog safety devices,” Jaitley said.  The government has also initiated steps to come up with a specialized railway university at Vadodara

Jaitley added that there has been significan improvement in the achievement of physical targets by Railways. “We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network,” he added. Meanwhile, 12000 wagons, 5160 coaches and 700 locomotives will be procured during 2018-19. The plan to come up with modern train sets are also on track at Perambur coach factory with the first such train to be commissioned during 2018-19.

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