Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced a capital outlay for 2.40 lakh crore to the Railway sector of the country. This is notably the highest ever outlay for the sector since the 2013-2014 Budget, making it the biggest provision given to the Railway sector since the PM Narendra Modi government took charge at the centre.
Sitharaman announced the budget on February 1, which will coincidentally be the last full budget of the Modi 2.0 government before the general elections in 2024. This is the fifth time that Nirmala Sitharam presented the budget as head of the Ministry of Finance. Notably, this is also the first time that a woman-empowered duo of President Droupadi Murmu and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have brought forward the countries 'annual financial statement'.
The allotment of 2.40 lakh crore to the Railway sector will come as a boost to the largest employer of the country, something that they have requested for time and again. The multi-modal connection network comprising rail and road networks is seeing an exceptional boost in the last few years. The Indian Railways (IR), with over 68,031 route kms, is the fourth largest network in the world under single management.
A major transport infrastructure, that can very well be called India's lifeline, and which had a huge role to play in national integration and regional development, is the railways.
The Economic Survey said that the passenger traffic originating in Indian Railways (IR) was 809 crore during pre-Covid-19 period (2019-20), but dipped to 125 crore in 2020-21. It has since recovered to 351.9 crore in 2021-22. During the current financial year, passenger traffic has seen further strong growth with the number of originating passengers already hitting 418.4 crore (up to November 2022).
In the case of revenue-earning, freight traffic was sustained by IR despite the Covid-19 shock. Between FY20-21 and FY21-22, there was a sharp increase in the freight traffic, reflecting the strong revival in the economic activity in the domestic economy. During FY 22-23 (up to November 2022), Indian Railways (IR) carried 976.8 million tons of revenue-earning freight traffic (excluding KRCL'), as against 901.7 million tonnes during the corresponding period in FY 21-22 (excluding KRCL), which translated into an increase of 8.3 per cent.
Indian Railways, which is a major user of electricity in the country, has announced its intention to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2030. In this regard, Indian Railways has reoriented its energy demand towards greater use of renewable sources. As of November 2022, plants generating about 143 MW of solar power (both on rooftops and on land) and about 103 MW of wind power have been commissioned, said the survey.
The capital expenditure (Capex) on infrastructure in railways has received a tremendous boost since 2014. It has seen a continuous increase in the last four years with Cape (B.E.) of 22.5 lakh crore in FY23, up by around 29 per cent compared to the previous year. During the current financial year (till 12 December 2022), IR has already completed 2022 Track Kilometres (TKM) which includes 109 TKM of New Line, 102 TKM of Gauge Conversion and 1811 TKM of multi-tracking projects.
From FY2014-22, across IR, 20,628 km sections (3,970 km New Line, 5,507 km Gauge Conversion and 11,151 km doubling) have been commissioned at an average of 2,579 km/year, which is 70 percent more than the average commissioning during 2009-14 (1,520 km/year). Further, during the last eight years (2014-22), 30,446 Route Kilometres (RKM) have been electrified compared to an electrification of 4,698 RKM during the previous eight-year period, a more than six-fold increase.
The MAHSR project, which was sanctioned by the government in 2015, with technical and financial cooperation from the Government of Japan, is under execution and survey & design aspects of it have been finalised.
One of the most ambitious and biggest ever infrastructure projects in the railways, which comprises construction of two dedicated freight corridors, i.e Eastern and Western DFCs along the golden quadrilateral, will offer higher transport output in the country with reduced transit time and cost.
GCTs are being developed by private players on non-railway land as well as fully/ partially on railway land, based on demand from industry and potential of cargo traffic. 21 GCTs have been commissioned and more than 90 more locations have been provisionally identified for development of GCTs (as of 31 October 2022). This will boost investment from industry in the development of additional terminals for handling rail cargos.
Semi High-Speed Self-Propelled Vande Bharat Trainsets were manufactured by Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, with indigenous efforts. These trains have ultra-modern features like quick acceleration, substantial reduction in travel time, having maximum speed of 160 kmph, on-board infotainment and Global Positioning System (GPS) based passenger information system, etc.
envisages centralised operation of points and signals to enhance safety in train operations. These systems have been provided at 6,322 stations covering 99 per cent stations of Indian Railways (as of 30 September 2022).
Hyperloop is an emerging transportation technology that can be faster and greener than aeroplanes and railways. In this system, vehicles run in the levitating state (with the help of Linear Induction Motors/Electromagnets) and in vacuum environments. The technology is still in the development phase. Indian Railways intends to develop a demonstrative project on Hyperloop Technology. Indian Railways has collaborated with IT Madras for developing Hyperloop Technology by setting up Centre of Excellence for Hyperloop Technology at IT Madras at the cost of 28.34 crore.
Kisan Rail trains were introduced in FY21 to enable speedy movement of perishables from production or surplus regions to consumption or deficient regions. Up to 31 October 2022, Indian Railways have operated 2,359 Kisan Rail services, transporting approximately 7.91 lakh tonnes of perishables including fruits and vegetables.