By-Anil Kumar Saxena :Over the past few years, Indian Railways has been marching in tune with the requirements of the national economy and it has bettered the targets it set for itself in the process. Indian Railways have emerged as one of the major movers of economy as its plan size in the year 2007-08 has gone upto Rs. 37,500 crore from a plan size of Rs. 10,177 crore in the year 2000-01, it has shown tremendous financial performance by achieving a cash surplus of Rs. 25,000 crore in 2007-08 as against a meagre cash surplus of Rs. 350 crore in 2000-01, it has improved its operating ratio to 76 per cent in 2007-08 from 98 per cent in 2000-01 and increased freight loading to 795 MT in 2007-08 from 473 MT in 2000-01.
In the current year, Indian Railways have drawn up plans towards the increased upgradation of rail infrastructure and procurement of new assets of rolling stock during the current financial year with an estimated expenditure of Rs. 37,500 Crore (approx.) to shore up the infrastructural development and upkeep. While the massive investment by the Indian Railways will strengthen Railways, it will also kick start rapid economic activity and growth in different core sectors of Indian economy.
The strategy in current year includes massive track and sleeper renewal activity leading to increased steel consumption, production of more steel bridge girders, more production of Coaches, more production of diesel and electrical locos, more production of wheels & axles, development of model stations and world class stations, installation of modern and upgraded signalling system, increased route electrification and improvement in telecommunication work. Indian Railways is also undertaking the construction of dedicated freight corridor, the biggest infrastructural development activity of Indian Railways since independence, towards which an amount of Rs. 400 crore is being spent in 2008-09 and Rs. 3000 crore have been earmarked for 2009-10.
In case of cement the consumption over Indian Railways is likely to increase to 11.41 lakh MT in current financial year as against 5.88 lakh MT in 2000-01 and a total consumption of cement over Indian Railways is likely to be 15.90 lakh MT in current year as compared to 7.75 lakh MT in 2000-01.
Some of the Railway projects under execution are described below:
For the track development, the railways are targeting the rail renewal of over 2,941 km, for which it will require about 3,39,288 million tonne (MT) of rail steel. This will help IR renew its infrastructure assets on age-cum-condition basis and upgrade the infrastructure for the increased axle loads.
The IR has taken various steps for sleeper renewal of 2,382 km which will require about 38.59 lakh pre-stressed concrete (PSC) sleepers. Since the sleeper renewal would be required for other purposes as well, the railways are looking at renewing 44.5 lakh PSC sleepers. This will require 88,200 MT steel.
In addition to above, the railways will also use 5,000 metric tonne of steel to manufacture steel channel sleepers for Railway bridges during the current financial year.
To develop bridges, the railways have also upped their production target of steel girders. The total production of the steel girders during this fiscal up to October was 5,294 MT. During 2007-08, the Railway bridge workshops produced 8,615 MT steel bridge girders. The falling steel prices have made it easy for the railways to procure steel, which would push up the production of bridge girders in the railways workshops. IR has taken many steps to ensure that the targets of steel fabrication and usage are achieved.
The upsurge in the passenger traffic has also raised a need to manufacture more coaches. Railways have decided to enhance the production of passenger coaches from its two production units – the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala and Integral Coach Factory, Perambur. The railways are targeting to manufacture 3,000 coaches this year registering an increase of 12.5 per cent over the last year. The railways have also proposed to set up a new coach factory in Rae Bareli in the private-public-partnership (PPP). Railway has planned to acquire sufficient number of wagons to meet the requirements of growing freight traffic.
The Railways are increasing their production of wheel and axles by 60 per cent as compared to last year which will also help in saving foreign exchange.
To meet the increasing requirement of freight traffic the railways have decided to enhance the production of diesel locomotives at Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi unit. It also plans to have higher level of production of high horse powers locomotives to EMD design. As a result of certain measures taken by railway, DLW has been able to enhance the production of 152 locomotives during the first seven months of the current financial year as against 137 in the corresponding period of 2007-08, registering a growth of 10.9 per cent.
The railways have also decided to set up an electric locomotive factory in Madhepura, Bihar under joint venture model. The railways have already invited bids for the proposed factory which is likely to manufacture 100 electric locomotives per year. The railways will acquire 220 electric locomotives this fiscal. It is already in the process of acquiring 200 locomotives from Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd at a cost Rs 5.5 crore each.
Indian Railways are setting up a 1000 MW thermal power plant through a joint venture with NTPC at Nabi Nagar, Bihar with a total cost of Rs. 5352 crore.
About Rs. 300 crore will be spent during the next three months for modern signalling system. Rs. 1800 will be spent during the next year (2009-10) for the modernization of upgradation of signalling system.
The electrification target for the current year has been increased from 700 Kms to 1000 Kms. Next Year, electrification is likely to be undertaken over 1200 Kms with Rs. 1000 crore, between Ghaziabad-Moradabad, Shoranur-Mangalore and Gondia-Ballarshah etc.
Indian Railways is seeking an outlay of Rs. 2800 crore towards undertaking telecommunication works till 2011-12. These telecommunication works include replacement of more than 10,000 route Kms. Of overhead alignment in the optical fibre communication and Quad Cable network, provision of a very high capacity DWDM network, modernisation of the switching and networking structure and Mobile Train Radio Communication.
In a bid to give a major facelift to some of the busy stations, the railways have envisaged development of 23 World class stations out of which four are being taken up in first phase. It has also taken up work on 300 railway stations to turn them into model stations.
So the Indian Railways is chugging ahead full stream and strengthening its own network and putting the Indian economy on fast track.