Pace of electrification and renewal of rail lines touched an all-time high.
New Delhi: The Indian Railways’ network has witnessed tremendous growth in the five-year rule of the Narendra Modi government, registering the best ever performance in the areas of rail safety and modernisation of infrastructure. A comparative analysis of rail development works undertaken by the Modi government with that of the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, suggests that the pace of electrification and renewal of rail lines touched an all-time high under the Modi regime, while also enhancing passenger amenities and cleanliness in the process.
According to official data, electrification of rail routes stood at 4,087 km in 2017-18 compared to 610 km during 2013-14, the last year of the UPA rule. Railway ministry officials said this is the highest ever electrification target achieved by the railways, effecting an increase of 570% compared to the UPA
Similarly, the Ministry of Railways put a thrust on renewal of existing rail tracks in the country and touched the mark of 4,405 km in the year 2017-18, compared to 2,926 km in 2013-14. This, too, is the highest ever target achieved by the Railways.
Railway safety was accorded utmost priority by the Indian Railways, which was rattled by a spate of train accidents, mostly derailments, in 2016-17. Thorough assessment of the situation found dilapidated railway tracks and old existing rail coaches primarily responsible for the accidents. Following this, focus was shifted on railway safety. Replacement of existing coaches with the advanced LHB coaches was the key step in this regard.
During the 10-year rule of the UPA government, Railways produced just 233 LHB coaches per year; however, the production of these German coaches increased to a whopping 1,387 per year during Modi government’s rule. The LHB coaches are light-weight modern coaches that can attain higher speed and, at the same time, are equipped with anti-climbing feature that stops the coaches from climbing on top of each other in case of accidents, thus reducing casualties.
Statistics suggest that these measures resulted in significant decline in the number of rail accidents in the country from 118 in 2013-14 to 73 in 2017-18. Officials claimed this is the least ever accident figures recorded by Railways in one year. Notably, in the Union Budget 2017-18, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced a dedicated rail safety fund of Rs 1 lakh crore to be spent over the next five years. However, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal decided to spend the rail safety fund in just two remaining years of the Modi government.
“There has been a significant increase in expenditure over rail infrastructure during the last five years. Huge investments were made in the areas of modernisation and rail safety. These initiatives have resulted in increased speed, cost saving and environmental benefits, apart from safety of passengers,” said a Railway Ministry official.
The average capital expenditure by Railways during NDA rule is pegged at Rs 5.29 lakh crore per year, which is 130% higher than the Rs 2.3 lakh crore per year spent by the UPA government between 2009 and 2014.
In the area of passenger amenities, the Railways has improved the e-ticketing capacity to 20,000 tickets per minute which was just 2,000 tickets per minute in 2014. For the first time, Railways also started providing free wi-fi to passengers at railway stations, a facility which was missing during the UPA rule. So far, Railways haa provided 707 railway stations with free wi-fi. Cleanliness of trains and railway stations, too, gained momentum after the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Railways began installing bio-toilets in trains at a pace 30 times higher than during the UPA rule. From 2004 to 2014, Railways installed 959 bio-toilets per year which increased to 29,290 bio-toilets per year.