Monday, November 18th, 2019
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Indian Railways – plan, priorities and challanges

Pradeep Bhatnagar* Indian Railways (IR) with 63,273 route kms, 1.4 million employees, 538 billion NTKM of freight traffic and 6.97 billion originating passengers is one of the largest Railway network in the world and is lifeline of India and backbone of its transport infrastructure. Over the last few years Indian Railways has been regaining market share in transport sector through improved services, better utilisation of assets, capacity augmentation and customer friendly approach and the revenues have steadily increased to the level of Rs 84,233 crore in 2008-09. ‘ The thrust of improved performance in 2008-09 has hinged upon significant improvement in asset utilisation apart from capacity augmentation. There has also been a positive response of the market to Dynamic Pricing Policy and other innovative measures introduced by Railways to gain market share. Indian Railways has been following a systematic Five Year Planning process to prioritise & achieve strategic objectives and allocate resources optimally. The Five Year Plan is further implemented, monitored and reviewed on yearly basis through Annual Plans to ensure that priorities are met. To give a broad picture of IR’s organisational structure and size, the vast network is predominently Broad Gauge- 1676 mm (81%) with 18274 kms of electrified route kms (29%). Administratively IR under Ministry of Railways, is divided into 16 Zones which are further sub divided into 68 divisions. There are 13 Public Sector Units/Corporations, 7 major production uints (manufacturing electric and diesel locomotives, coaches, EMU/MEMU/DEMU) other major organisations under IR are Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE), Metro Railway Kolkata and 6 major training institutes. The freight and business strategies, capacity augmentation and asset replacement plan, technological upgradation programme and other initiatives are planned systematically across this vast organisation and along the complete value chain of Rail transportation business through the Five Year Planning process. Despite the global economic downturn in 2008-09 which drastically affected demand, Indian Economy has shown resilience and witnessed a GDP growth of over 6% in 2008-09. The GDP forecast for next few years although moderated from the 8-9% growth levels in last few years are still relatively significant and range between 5% to 7%. To support and propel this high projected GDP growth, India needs rapid augmentation of capacity in infrastructure be it Power Generation, Road Network, Rail Network, Port capacity or Telecom connectivity. Indian Railways being the main transporter of bulk freight, containers and passenger traffic are a key driver for supporting the GDP growth of the country. Besides, Railways is also an engine of inclusive growth. The XIth Plan (2007-12) lays ambitious targets for freight and passenger business transportation and associated capacity augmentation and technological upgradation. The main objectives in the XIth Five Year Plan are creation of adequate transport capacity to handle the projected growth of both passenger and freight traffic during the Plan period and provide improved services to both the segments. Increase in market share in freight traffic, both bulk and non-bulk, is also an important focus area. The XIth Plan priorities for IR can be summarised as building capacity for handling traffic growth (New Lines including Dedicated Freight Corridor, Unigauge Network, Doubling, Capacity Enhancement on High Density Network, Enhancing Capacity for Rolling Stock Production) up-gradation for heavy axle load movement, modernisation of freight and passenger terminals, developing world class stations, Information Technology initiatives and technological up-gradations. The Plan envisages growth in freight transportation business from 481 billion NTKM in 2006-07 to 702 billion NTKM in the terminal year 2011-12. On passenger business front target of 924 billion PKM has been set against accruals of 695 billion PKM in 2006-07. To achieve the quantum increase in traffic, the XIth plan marks a significant change in Indian Railways earlier approach of incremental capacity augmentation. The capacity creation targets in XIth Plan have been kept at twice/thrice levels of that of Xth Plan accruals. In fixed infrastructure it is planned to add 2000 kms of new lines, convert 10000 kms of Meter/Narrow gauge lines to Broad gauge (1676 mm), Double 6000 kms of single track and electrify 3500 kms of network length. On the rolling stock front it is planned to manufacture/ procure 1,55,000 wagons (equivalent 4 wheeler units), 17,500 coaches, 2800 EMUs, 2200 MEMU/DEMU and 3600 Locomotives (1800 Electric and 1800 Diesel). To obtain the increased number of rolling stock, it is planned to setup one Electric Locomotive Manufacturing Unit, one Diesel Locomotive Manufacturing Unit, one main line EMU Manufacturing Unit, two new Rail Coach Factories besides augmenting the capacity of existing production units. These new Manufacturing Units are to be setup as departmental production units or through the Joint Venture route. Indian Railways is also moving ahead with the Dedicated Freight Corridor Projects on Western Route from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust near Bombay to Rewari and Eastern Route from Ludhiana to Dankuni. These corridors would add significant capacity in freight transportation and would be operational in 2016-17. The overall Plan Size is Rs 233,289 Crore at current prices and the resource mobilization envisages Rs 90,000 Crore from Internal Resource Mobilization, 63,635 Crore from Gross Budgetary Support and Rs 79,654 Crore from market borrowings and private participation. The thrust areas for the Indian Railways XIth Plan are brought out below: Consolidation and increase in market share: Freight Business: Improving the quality of service with reduction in transit time and better reliability and availability; Facilitating building of logistic parks and container and other freight terminals; Rationalizing freight structure and dynamic pricing policies. Increased use of IT-enabled services for improved customer interface. Developing freight terminals. Opening up of container operations to private sector. Passenger Business: Increasing the commercial speed of passenger trains; Introduction of fast services between metropolitan cities with speed up to 150 kmph; Introduction of MEMU/DMU passenger services; Improving customer interface by IT enabled services Development/ Modernisation of stations Improvement in operation and productivity • Introducing heavier trains of 25 tonne axle load • Augmentation of Axle load on over 22000 kms • Streamlining of maintenance practices • Introducing higher capacity wagons with better payload to tare ratio • Running of double stack container trains • Increasing running of longer passenger trains of 24 coaches • Introducing higher capacity coaches • Rightsizing of manpower • Increased computerization in operation and maintenance of services Improving Safety Technological up gradation by reducing human intervention and operation. Better - skills in operation and maintenance of assets by enhanced training. Improving the energy efficiency and adopting environmental friendly measures • Use of fuel-efficient locomotives • Adopting energy-efficient technologies for manufacturing and maintenance activities • Reducing the electricity charges and traction energy costs • Improving the fuel management in diesel locomotives In the budget 2009-10 several key programmes/initiatives have been planned in areas of improving passenger amenities & capacity augmentation (fixed infrastructure and rolling stock). On the passenger service front these include development of 50 stations as World Class stations with international level of facilities, development of 375 Adarsh stations in 2009-10 with improved passenger facilities, construction of Multi-Functional complexes at 50 Railway Stations, expansion of On Board House keeping scheme to cover 200 additional trains, On Board Infotainment Services on Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and important long distance intercity trains, Selling of computerised tickets from Post Offices & Introduction of mobile ticketing vans. Further introduction of high capacity AC double decker coaches, environment friendly green toilets & ambulance services at metropolitan cities have also been planned. On capacity augmentation front the emphasis is on implementing the Dedicated Freight corridor project which has been declared as ”Diamond Rail Corridors”. An Eastern Industry corridor is envisaged along the eastern DFC similar to DMIC. To meet the high demand of EMU/MEMU and Metro coaches a new factory through JV/PPP is planned in Kanchrapara-Halisahar complex. Further it is planned to set up a new thousand Megawatt Power Plant at Adra to avail traction supply at economical tariff. Now, we are reaching the mid of the XIth Five Year Plan and it is time to review the performance vis a vis targets and do mid course correction in strategies and planning to align the plan outcome with the national economic growth priorities. The mid term review exercise has been started by Indian Railways. Against envisaged growth in freight transportation business from 481 billion NTKM in 2006-07 to 702 billion NTKM in the terminal year 2011-12 and passenger transportation volume from 695 billion PKM in 2006-07 to 924 billion PKM in 2011-12, freight transportation of 538 billion NTKM and passenger volume of 778 billion PKM have been achieved in the first two years of the XIth Plan. The slowdown in the economy and drop in demand have certainly impacted the rail traffic transportation like other sectors and the targets and strategy will be revisited during mid-term review process in the current year. The fixed infrastructure and Rolling Stock augmentation achieved during the first two years is significantly higher than the average proportional performance in the Xth Five Year Plan. To meet these ambitious targets set up in the XIth Plan, Indian Railways faces some key challenges which have to be successfully over come during the plan period. The organisation has to strategically combat competitive threats from road sector and airlines and gain market share in the slowing economy. Resource mobilisation in these times of economic distress is also a major challenge. Further, Railways needs to improve project implementation capabilities for speedy project execution and innovative financing mechanisms need to be evolved to finance economically unviable but socially viable projects and programmes particularly in area of passenger business. (PIB Features) *Adviser Infrastructure, Railway Board, Ministry of Railways

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