While recognizing that under-investment has been a persistent problem in the Indian Railways, the Minister Suresh Prabhu unveiled a comprehensive plan for modernization of the Railways and improving the customer experience, said Ajay S Shriram, President, CII. The Minister also suggested several innovative financing mechanisms including setting up special purpose vehicles for raising long-term investment from pension funds and multilateral agencies. He set an ambitious target of investing Rs 8.5 lakh crores in the Railways over the next five years. This would result in a truly modern rail system which would significantly propel economic growth, said Shriram.
CII welcomed the various announcements on capacity augmentation, including decongestion of existing networks, fast-tracking sanctioned works and commissioning new works. Speedier implementation of the dedicated freight corridors is particularly welcome. Efforts to encourage private public partnerships such as in the logistics space are also extremely welcome. The private sector can also be involved fruitfully in areas such as development of private freight terminals and wagon leasing and investments. It is encouraging that the Minister has also mentioned the provision of Railway land to private developers for development of storage facilities.
A revamp of the station redevelopment policy that envisages a bidding process based on best practices will invite substantial interest in the private sector. The proposal to develop satellite terminals with modern facilities is also welcome. Safety measures, measures to increase speed and upgrade technology are all of utmost importance. Simultaneously, an effort has also been made to achieve greater environmental sustainability. It is commendable that the Railways are seeking to implement its modernization plan in partnership with several key stakeholders including the private sector, state governments and public sector companies.
Finally, the large number of measures to improve customer satisfaction shows that the Railways is becoming a more customer centric institution. Measures to provide a smooth ticketing experience, a clean environment and safe and healthy food would all enhance the quality of customer experience. With 23 million passengers travelling daily on Indian Railways, these measures are of paramount importance, said the CII release. The Minister’s plans to provide training facilities and better living conditions for the 1.4 million people employed by the Railways are also crucial for the provision of better services.
Quote of Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII
The Railways Minister has presented a comprehensive and reform-oriented Budget, with issues of contemporary relevance being addressed in a pragmatic and result-oriented manner. The four big goals, namely improving customer experience, ensuring safety, effecting capacity expansion and making railways financially sustainable reflects a business-like approach to decision-making. The engagement of states in taking the Indian rail forward is a laudable suggestion which is in line with the Prime Minister’s approach of cooperative federalism. This would go a long way to help realize the Prime Minister’s dream of bringing railways to the centre stage of economic activity. The Minister has rightly recognized that our vision of achieving high GDP growth and realizing the dream of taking the ‘Make in India’ initiative forward would hinge essentially on improving the viability and efficiency of railway operations.
This is a “Caring Budget”. This cares for the customer. This cares for the environment. This cares for the stakeholders, including the Railway PSUs and the Rail employees and of course this cares about the economy.