Railway Board takes up safety measures: 

Railway Board takes up safety measures

Context:

  • With consecutive rail accidents, the Indian Railways is planning a series of steps to improve the safety of rail tracks.
  • It includes automated inspections and frequent traffic blocks for maintenance.

What are the problems faced by Indian Railways?

  • Indian Railways is the fifth biggest rail network in the world with 1.3 million employees and it is a massive task to streamline its operations.
  • Different Union governments and railway ministers have commissioned multiple studies on what ails the Railways. Some of them are as below:
  • The discrepancy between cargo charges and passenger fares seem to distort the Railways’ performance.
  • The Indian railway has a centralised organisation with hierarchical decision-making. As a result, even simple decisions take years to resolve.
  • Indian Railways spends heavily on revenue expenditure and there is little left for capital expenditure.
  • In the previous year, the Indian Railways missed most of its targets, including of electrification, track renewals, bridge works, and doubling of tracks.

Railway Budget: An overview:

  • As part of the radical rethinking on improving the country’s transportation architecture, a combined budget has been presented on after the merger of the railway budget with the Union budget.
  • The merger of Railway Budget with General Budget is based on the recommendations of the Committee of the NITI Aayog and a separate paper on ‘Dispensing with the Railway Budget’.

Salient features of Merger are as follows:

  • Ministry of Railways will continue to function as a departmentally run commercial undertaking;
  • A separate Statement of Budget Estimates and Demand for Grant will be created for Railways;
  • A single Appropriation Bill, including the estimates of Railways, will be prepared and presented by Ministry of Finance to Parliament;
  • The presentation of a unified budget will help present a holistic picture of the financial position of the Government; and
  • Merger of Rail Budget with Union Budget would facilitate multimodal transport planning between highways, railways and inland waterways.

Key initiatives of the unified budget are as follows:

  • India will invest as much as Rs3, 96,135 crore in creating and upgrading infrastructure in the next financial year.
  • As part of the new integrated infrastructure planning paradigm comprising roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation, the National Democratic Alliance government unveiled the largest-ever rail budget
  • The set of initiatives announced seem to acknowledge the challenge that Railways is losing share in both freight and premium passenger service.
  • Integrated approach to improving safety, cleanliness and passenger comfort, and higher levels of service to freight customers through end to end services has also been introduced in this budget.
  • Indian Railways will also list its subsidiaries—Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, Indian Railway Finance Corporation and Ircon International Ltd.

What is the way ahead?

  • The recent decision of surge pricing of tickets in premium trains is a move in a correct direction to encounter the challenge of freight charges.
  • Indian Railways need to generate enough funds on its own for capital expenditure.
  • It also needs to find non-government sources of funding in order to witness a noticeable change.
  • Recently, privatisation is recommended as the panacea of Indian railways.  It can prove to be efficient through more profit making models.
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