Rebooting the Railways

Source:  www.thehindubusinessline.com

As a former banker, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will realise better than anyone else the true cost to the economy of inefficiency and delay in the creation of public infrastructure.

According to Planning Commission data, as many as 274 of the 289 Railway projects under implementation, or 95 per cent of all live projects, are delayed, some by as much as a decade or more. Many of the projects were planned much earlier but never got off the ground given the chronic shortage of funds for investment, thanks to rampant misallocation and misuse of resources for populistic projects by a succession of Railway ministers.

Almost anything planned such a long time ago is bound to be hopelessly inadequate, given the speed with which the country’s economic landscape and connectivity requirements are changing. Add the delays, and it’s a near certainty that when these projects eventually do get completed, they will not be able to meet the demands placed on them, or worse, become irrelevant.

That kind of stress is already threatening to unravel India’s colonial era network. According to a recent PwC estimate, a quarter of Railway infrastructure is already being sweated beyond its maximum overload capacity.

Worryingly, another 50 per cent of capacity is almost at that limit. Such stress has caused a rising number of accidents, earning the Indian Railways the sobriquet of the world’s most dangerous railway network. The need to repair, strengthen and modernise its infrastructure has reached alarming proportions. More info

Photo by JEREEY’s Bucket

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