As India is poised for significant economic growth in the next two decades, effective mode of transport would be critical to meet the growing transport demand. Being the most energy efficient land transport, development of Railways would be one of the key facets to achieve the Hon’ble Prime Minister vision of New India by 2022. Railways has been a priority sector for the present Government. With an all- time high budget allocation in this year’s budget and Ministry of Railways focus on investor-friendly policies reiterates their vision to transform Indian Railways to a truly a world class, safe and modern transporter.
Presently there is need for significant investment to decongest the networks, increasing the speed of trains and efficiency in operations of Indian Railways (IR). This would include prioritized capacity enhancement works and traffic facility works. Speedy electrification, track renewal and signaling & telecom works are also of importance for reasons of safety and efficiency. With the objective of enabling IR to achieve its vision through industry partnerships, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is organising National Conference- Rail Contact- Driving Industry-Railway Partnership on 19 June 2018, New Delhi. The objective of the initiative is to understand renewed vision of the IR, discuss and understand the emerging opportunities for industry members and chart out the role of Indian industry. The Conference would be inaugurated by Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister of Railways.
Key Focus Areas
There is a clear agenda of reforms to upscale and strengthen India’s Rail story. It is envisaged that Railways would entail investment of USD 133.6 billion over the next 5 years. More importantly, a concerted effort of all stakeholders is imperative to develop Rail infrastructure. Ministry of Railways requires significant private partnership for speedy electrification, track renewal, developing high and semi high-speed network and upgradation of signalling systems.
The key plans to achieve the vision include:
1. Electrification of 33,000 kms of route in 10 years (investment of about Rs. 12,600 crores).
2. Expedite renewal of overdue tracks of 5,100 km and ensure absence of backlogs in future.
3. Conversion of 10,000 km of trunk routes into high-speed corridors (investment of Rs. 20 Lakh crores).
4. Under ‘Zero-accident Mission’, a complete overhaul of the signalling and electrification network is planned at an estimated cost of Rs 60,000 crore that will allow to run trains every 6-7 minutes.
Currently about 33,000 km of tracks are electrified which amounts to around 40% of Railway network. Electrification reduces the dependence on imported fossil fuels. Moreover, electric traction allows regeneration of power while braking/coasting to feed the network and reduces both overall energy consumption and carbon emissions. Further to this for improving operational efficiency and increasing speed, it is imperative that electrification is accorded priority in Railways. With this objective, a target for electrification of 10000 route kilometre has been set to be achieved within next 5 years from 2015-16 to 2019-20.
IR had undertaken track renewal work for 3,600 km in 2017-18 and has set an ambitious target of replacing 3,900 km of tracks in 2018-19. IR has also decided to procure 4.87 lakh tonnes of rails. With over 115,000 track km over a route of 67,312 km, accelerating renewal of overdue tracks and ensuring absence of backlogs in future needs priority emphasis.
High and Semi-High-Speed Network
Indian Railways is following a two-pronged approach in this respect. The first approach is raising the speed of segregated passenger corridors on trunk routes using conventional technology to 160 to 200 kmph. The second approach is to build state-of- the-art high- speed corridors for speeds up to 350 kmph. IR envisions conversion of 10,000 km of trunk routes into high-speed corridors. Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail (MAHSR) is India’s first high-speed rail line connecting the cities of Mumbai, Maharashtra, Ahmedabad and Gujarat.
Signaling & Telecom
Signalling & Telecommunication engineering in its entirety provides for a whole range of technologies to provide cost-effective solutions in enhancing safety and increasing the line capacity. It is necessary to adopt global bench marks in Signaling over next 3 to 4 years to realize safety and capacity enhancements.
Investments in rail infrastructure are high priority as they add efficiencies to national competitiveness and reduce transaction and supply chain costs. Higher revenues would offer more opportunities for targeting a zero-tolerance approach to issues in safety. To achieve the above stated objectives the sector requires focussed and large increase in investments. IR must remain financially sustainable so that resources generated can be ploughed back for efficient upkeep, operation and maintenance of the system itself for the benefit of the rail users. Ministry is finding innovative financing models to funds its ambitious targets.
The present Government has undertaken numerous steps to invite private participation into the sector. In 2014, Government of India opened Railway electrification for FDI. Ensuring ease of doing business with IR would be crucial to achieve the vision envisaged and speedy implementation of key railway projects. Capacity creation in IR could be fast- tracked through encouraging public-private partnerships (PPP). Policy framework coupled with enabling environment, will offer great opportunity for Indian industry in capacity creation and setting up of manufacturing and support facilities in the sector in India. Redefining the roles of Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE) would also play a major role.