Friday, February 13, 2009

Railway investments in infrastructure Inadequate: Dr. JP

Railway investments in infrastructure have not been growing in tune with the growth in the economy, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today. As a result 80% of the freight is being moved by roads and only 20% by rail. Road traffic is expensive, pollutes the environment and results in innumerable accidents and heavy damage to roads.

Commenting on the railway budget, Dr. JP said that successive Governments have added only some 10,000 km of railway track since the country attained Independence. There is no reason why all of the districts barring the hilly ones cannot have a railway line. The track maintenance is so poor that the so-called super fast trains run at an average speed of 70 km an hour against 120-150 km in the developed world. The railways have not been able to meet the demand for train services by increasing the frequency because electronic signaling has not been introduced in most of the country. While in advanced countries one can travel across countries by walking into a railway station any time, here in India one has to book a ticket three months in advance or pay through the nose under the tatkal scheme to get a berth on a long-distance train. Nowhere in the developed world toilet waste from running train toilets is discharged on railway tracks. And the railways have failed to develop services in tune with the demand in metropolitan cities like Mumbai.

Dr. JP said members of Parliament should concern themselves with ensuring that trains are run fast and not slow them down by demanding a halt or a station in their constituencies. By developing effective linkages between bus and rail services, trains can be speeded up. Bus services should be encouraged to cover short distances and trains, long distances.

Dr. JP welcomed the introduction of some new trains and the proposal to introduce bullet trains. But the railways should introspect and ensure that its investments in infrastructure take the economy forward as railways are the economy’s lifeline. “Let not the railways miss the wood for trees”, he added. The improvement in the balance sheet of railways and the surplus of Rs. 25,000 crore in fiscal 2008 is welcome. But we need to take a long-term view and build the Indian Railways as an effective life line of our economy symbol of national integration.

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