The Suresh Prabhu-led Ministry of Railways is planning to set up a separate directorate which will exclusively look into all aspects related to the mobility and speed of trains.
According to a top Railways official, the directorate will focus only on how to increase the speed of trains. “It will look into all aspects of improving the speed, such as how to better the signalling technique, bring new technology and gauge the gap between two running trains. This, we hope will not only serve the passengers well, but also increase our business,” he said.
At present, the speed of trains is very slow. While goods trains run at a speed of 25 kmph, passenger and mail trains run at a speed of 35 kmph and 50 kmph respectively.
Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains run at an average speed of 70-80 kmph. Indian Railways has not been able to improve the speed of trains in the past 10 years. The official said that the new directorate will optimise the speed through cross-functionality.
The official said the Railway Minister proposes to reorganise the Railway Board along business lines. The board chairman will be empowered suitably for the purpose. The move will also improve governance and enhance efficiency in the long run.
According to the official, the proposed high-speed train between New Delhi and Agra, which will run at a speed of 160 kmph will be started very soon. “All safety measures related to tracks and signalling have been resolved. We will start the train very soon,” he added.
On the High Speed Rail Corridor for bullet trains, the official said that the ministry has set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) —National High Speed Rail Company—with an initial equity infusion of Rs 200 crore. The company has already been registered. The directors of the company would be appointed in the coming three months.
The official said Prabhu’s focus is on improving passenger amenities as well as increasing the revenue through goods trains. “Freight constitutes about 36% of the total revenue share. We want to increase it further. Only increasing fares is not the solution. Therefore, we are focusing on ‘non-fare box revenue’ through components like land monetisation and advertisement and not by increasing fare or tariff. At present, this share is 3-4%, whereas the world average is 15-20%. We are trying to increase this component,” he added.