Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today said efforts are on to take the public transporter ‘out of the ICU’ and create a situation where it can breathe well.
“The railways was in deep trouble not now but in the last 20-30 years. That is what the Rakesh Mohan committee report had said. So now we are trying to create a situation where the railways will be able to breathe well,” he told PTI.
Asked whether the national transporter is still in the ICU, he said, “We are trying to take it out of the ICU.”
On measures to make it robust, Prabhu said, “In order to survive, the railways needs to revamp its operation. We are working on it. We are making it sure that the railways will be an engine of growth in the next few years. We are putting all our efforts into it.”
To a question about the railways’ strategy since loadings are falling, the minister said a capacity to handle 1.2 billion tons of cargo will be created in the coming years.
“Freight (traffic) falling is not in our hands, it depends on the growth of the core sector. When core sector grows freight will also grow. But we are ready to handle 1.2 billion tons of cargo. In the railways’ history for the first time, we have created such a handling capacity ahead of its demand. So now cargo has to come,” he said. Asked whether the railways is considering hiking passenger fare since the freight is not picking up and passengers growth rate is also not high, Prabhu said the regulatory authority will decide on it. “We are setting up a regulatory framework for fare decision. The regulator will decide what should be the fare,” he said.
On certain trains being introduced recently with increased fare, he hinted at a possible separate fare structure for the new services.
“We are starting four new products — Humsafar, Tejas, Antodaya and Uday. All these products will look at how to increase market share of the railways,” the minister said. While the fare of recently launched Gatimaan Express is 25 per cent higher than Shatabdi, Mahamana Express was started with 15 per cent more than the regular train fare.
According to Rail Budget proposals, Humsafar would be fully air-conditioned third AC service with an optional service for meals. Tejas, on the other hand, will showcase the future of train travel in India with operating speeds of 130 kmph and have on-board services such as entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi. The railways also propose introduction of overnight Utkrisht Double-decker Air-conditioned Yatri (UDAY) Express on the busiest routes, which has the potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40 per cent.
There is also a proposal for the introduction of Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved, super-fast train service, for the common man to be operated on dense routes.
The railways which has a huge amount of data as it operates around 11,000 trains and carries about more than 2 crore passengers per day, is planning to moneytize its data.
“It is the first time in the world we are doing it… moneytising of the data. We are taking help of experts to do it,” Prabhu said.
Asked whether sharing data will be construed as compromising the privacy of railway customers, he said, “This is called operations data, not passenger data. There will be no compromise on privacy in any way.”
On if IRCTC data concerning passengers details will be moneytised, he said, “It will be operations data and not passenger data. Nobody is interested in IRCTC data. We will moneytise operations data. You will come to know when we will do it. This is nothing to do with IRCTC data.”
To a question about raising funds with the World Bank, Prabhu said, “That is also in an advanced stage, a separate fund of the World Bank for the railways. The World Bank is creating a separate fund with Indian Railways and details are being worked out.”
Asked about the progress regarding two locomotives plants in Bihar involving FDI, he said, “We reviewed the progress of Madhepura and Marhora projects and they are on track.”
He, however, noted, “It is not only FDI but investment in the railways will come. We will keep doing that. Station development contract is already in process. We have already given the contract to one and 10 more will be given soon. We are also doing it on government-to-government basis.”
About reforms, he said, “All of our reforms will be bearing fruits in the next two-three years time. Some are already happening, some are in the process.”
To a question comparing the railways with the road sector in terms of laying tracks, he said, “There is no comparision between road sector or that sector with this sector.
“We are on the right track. The railways will be on the path of progress in the years to come,” Prabhu added.