Crunch Time for Railways

By  Gourav Vallabh  www.newindianexpress.com

There are fewer more relaxing feelings than a coffee mug in one hand and a remote control in the other, especially when you have such spicy bites making up the news. But the reaction of people on news which isn’t political is bizarre.

While travelling to Kolkata from Jamshedpur by train once, which also happens to be the only mode on offer, I happened to overhear two families discussing how cheap rail travel once was and how costly it was becoming today! I wish I could offer them more than just a wry smile.

Having travelled extensively myself, one thing which I can vouch for, based on experience, is how cheap Indian railway makes it for its passengers. For more than just a brief span during UPA-I and UPA-II, I almost took the passenger fares for granted and never did the thought cross my mind that they could ever increase. For so many decades, freight has been trying to minimise losses which the Indian Railways has been making in its passenger travel segment on account of subsidised fares. The network of the railways spanned 53,996km in 1947, and it now stands at around 65000km.

The vision 2020 document released by the railways in 2009 aimed to expand the network by 25000km. Till then, the backlog was around 11000km. Five years have passed without much progress. We have only added 10000km in the 65 years after the Britishers left, whereas China has added around 51000km during the same period. The railways has been sluggish in expansion of network, when there has always been a latent demand to increase tracks to serve both freight and public transportation.

We often find some trains over-occupied, some partially occupied over entire journey or part of the journey. The question is why Indian Railways has not become an intelligent traffic manager, utilising its manpower/wagon/stations with maximum productivity? More info

 

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