Rail Budget has been scrapped, but here’s what Suresh Prabhu wants you to know

Couched as New Year Greetings, the mail lists what has been the foremost things that have occupied Prabhu and his ministry throughout the year

Rail Budget has been scrapped, but here’s what Suresh Prabhu wants you to know

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu seems to be sore at losing the sole opportunity, apart from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, of being the one holding all of India’s attention at the end of February. This year on, the Rail Budget will be part of the Union Budget just like any other ministry, despite the Railways being the single largest governmental employer.

That’s possibly the reason Prabhu has written a long epistle to people who book rail tickets by IRCTC. This writer is among the many millions who have made use of IRCTC’s excellent system, which is used unfairly by touts to block tickets, more on that some other time, to travel across the country. But most of you may not have seen this because your Gmail or email settings would have put it into the promotions or updates folder.

So in public service, the letter is reproduced below as is. Though Prabhu’s letter begins by addressing me Dear Friend, it would have been proper if it had been addressed Dear Citizen or even Dear Subscriber and not the lone Mitr from the Mitron of his Dear Leader.

Couched as New Year Greetings, the mail lists what has been the foremost things that have occupied Prabhu and his ministry throughout the year. This would normally have been part of the Rail Budget but that was not to be. As a result this long letter, lists the capital expenditure, the achievements by Railway employees, the trial of the Talgo trains, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train developments and ongoing projects.

“Sakshi Malik, who created history by becoming the first women wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal, is a member of our Railways family. A total of 35 sports persons who represented India in the Rio Olympics were Indian Railways employee, thus comprising almost a third of Indian contingent,” Prabhu says in his letter.

The letter starts here:

“Dear Friend,

It gives me immense pleasure to write to you at the onset of another new year. I wish the coming year brings happiness and prosperity in your life.

It is the able leadership of our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji which is inspiring us to strive for revamping the Indian Railways.He has said that "This is a technology driven century. Innovation is important. Railways has to be about both 'Gati' and 'Pragati'. It is this mantra that guides us on this journey of transformation.

Last year saw many milestones being set in Indian Railways and many new initiatives being taken. We believe not only in making promises,but also keeping them.We fulfilled many of the announcements made in the Railway Budget last year and we are committed to achieve the remaining ones.

Improving travel experience for our fellow citizens is at the core of our work and philosophy. Enhancing safety, improving speed, creating new passenger amenities, augmenting infrastructure, introducing of new train products all have been means to achieve this end.

Recent train accidents have anguished and pained me beyond words. We had started on this mission to make Indian Railways safe 2 years ago, when I joined office. Systemic issues accumulated over years take time to be resolved. Chronic underinvestment in infrastructure has affected the safety of Rail network. Much has been done but there is still so much more to do to make Indian Railways a safer mode of transport. We are determined to address the issues and come up with solutions. In the last 2 years, we have taken following measures to enhance safety:


  • Capital expenditure on safety related activities increased from Rs.39,200 Cr in 2013-14 to Rs. 46,048 Cr in 2015-16. We will be further increasing it to Rs.53,727 Cr in 2016-17.



  • Pace of track renewal has been increased substantially to over 2000 km every year.



  • Working on a mission to eliminate all unmanned level crossings by 2019.



  • All coaches to be retrofitted and improved with anti climbing and anti telescopic features over the next 4-5 years.



  • Entered into partnerships with several best-in-class global research bodies like Railway Technical Research Institute, Japan and Korean Rail Research Institute.



  • Introduction of Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System to detect rail fractures on a real time basis.



  • Train collision avoidance system is being introduced along high density routes.


Some of the highlights of our work, among many others have been:

  • Introduction of country's first Humsafar Express between Gorakhpur and Anand Vihar in New Delhi. It is a fully air conditioned train with host of features like GPS enabled announcement system, pleasing interiors and exteriors,CCTV system,pantry with coffee making machine and microwave oven etc. An effort to provide luxury service at affordable price point.



  • We had revamped the general coaches into special `Deendayalu' Coaches with amenities like pure drinking water, better ergonomically designed seats for our general class passengers.



  • In the next 2 months, we would be ready with Tejas Trains which would redefine passenger travel experience in India.



  • We organised one of the world's largest brainstorming exercise involving all Railway employees, Rail Vikas Shivir which was graced by Honourable Prime Minister.A dedicated transformation office is being set up in the Ministry to implement innovative ideas coming out of this exercise.



  • We commissioned high speed Wi-Fi in over 100 stations across country and we would cover 200 more stations in the next year.



  • We signed a MoU with Ministry of Urban Development to create "Smart Stations" in planned Smart Cities.



  • On the freight side,we launched a spate of reforms including reduction in charges,liberalised key policies such as Siding and Parcel.



  • Indian Railways bagged a total of 27 National Energy Conservation Awards (NECA) this year, given annually by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under aegis of Ministry of Power, Government of India. This is highest ever tally by Railways.



  • Partnered with Self Help Groups to provide local cuisines on trains, and thus facilitating employment creation,women empowerment and digital financial inclusion.



  • A capital expenditure of Rs. 94,000 Cr in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of Rs.46,000 Cr.



  • 2828 kms of broad gauge lines commissioned in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of 1528 kms.



  • 1730 kms of electrification completed in 2015-16 against 2009-14 annual average of 1184 kms.



  • Declaration of India's first "Green Rail Corridor" of Rameswaram-Manamadurai section which is 100% human waste discharge free.



  • Installed 15000+ Bio Toilets in 2015-16.



  • Clean my Coach service started to enhance on board cleanliness.



  • E-catering, E-bedroll and E-wheelchair services introduced to provide seamless access to these services.



  • Introduced one of the world's cheapest travel insurance for our passengers at only 92 paise for insurance of up to Rs. 10 Lakh. It has now been made free of cost.



  • Reserved accommodation capacity increased to 44.7 Cr berths from 37.1 Cr.



  • Implemented one of the world's largest complaint resolution system through social media,dedicated helpline numbers.



  • 100% E-procurement of goods implemented to ensure transparency.



  • Largest ever online recruitment exam conducted with over 94 lakh applications.



  • 1000+ Water Vending Machines providing RO water installed at stations across country.



  • A total of 340+ stations have been provided with CCTV surveillance to ensure safety.



  • Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP)- Phase III approved by the Cabinet with an estimated cost of Rs 11,000 Cr.



  • A total of 365 new trains have been introduced in 2014-15 and 2015-16.



  • Trials of Talgo trains capable of running at 200 kmph successfully completed.-



  • Collaboration between India and Japan on Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed Rail project.



  • Indian Railways has been at the forefront when it comes to promoting sports in the country.Sakshi Malik, who created history by becoming the first women wrestler from India to bag an Olympic Medal is a member of our Railways family. A total of 35 sports persons who represented India in the Rio Olympics were Indian Railways employee, thus comprising almost a third of Indian contingent.



  • Three of our employees contributed in India's win in the Hockey Junior World Cup.



  • Key result areas defined for ensuring accountability, objective performance appraisal.


All these milestones have been set under challenging circumstances.Years of underinvestment have led to overstretched infrastructure, inadequate carrying capacity and huge unmet passenger demand. Non-rationalised passenger fares and cross-subsidisation by freight revenue led to strain on financial health.

We believe, Indian Railways belongs to you and when we involve you in creating a vision for Indian Railways, excellent results could be achieved. With this in mind, we launched Railways Innovation Challenge inviting suggestions to improve various aspects of our working. We also launched a website to invite inputs for preparation of National Rail Plan 2030.

A lot has been done and a lot is yet to be achieved. It is our Honourable Prime Minister's firm belief that Railways can be the driver of country's economic growth. With this in mind, we step into the new year with renewed enthusiasm to achieve more, set new milestones.We are working on many focus areas which will propel Indian Railways further on the growth trajectory and benchmark it with the best in the world.

Some of the endeavours among many others we are working on are:-

  • Redevelopment of railway stations into world class modern terminals with modern passenger amenities. The construction of first such terminal being planned at Habibganj, Bhopal would get underway in next few weeks.

  • A five year investment plan of Rs. 8.56 Lakh Cr for giving a major push to infrastructure augmentation and thus create capacity for future.

  • Enabling cashless transactions across Indian Railways at all interfaces.

  • Working on a multi-pronged strategy for running of high speed trains (with a speed of 300 kmph+), semi high speed trains (with a speed of 160 kmph+ - 200kmph), running of existing trains with increased speeds and introduction of faster trains.

  • A big push on enhancing non fare revenue through advertisings, leasing out of spaces etc.In a first,a Non Fare Revenue Directorate has been set up in Railway Board for this purpose.

  • More structural reforms and creation of new organizations to keep pace with the changing requirements. Railway Planning and Investment Organisation to prepare National Rail Plan 2030 and SRESTHA, a R&D organization to name a few.

  • Plan to connect all capital cities of North Eastern states to be connected with broad gauge line by 2020 and stimulating economic development of the region.

  • Two Dedicated Freight Corridors to be commissioned by 2019 which will decongest existing traffic and pave way for better passenger and freight service.

  • Making Indian Railways 100% human waste discharge free through use of Bio-Toilets.

  • Plan to generate 1000 MW solar power in next 5 years, thus becoming one of the country's largest solar power producer.

  • Undertaking Accounting Reforms to create a transparent accounting system which will enhance profitability and improve overall efficiency.

  • Implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) to streamline operations, infuse technology, enhance efficiency.

  • Establishment of Rail University as a holistic knowledge centre for Railways.

  • LED luminaries at all stations.


All these visions could not be turned into reality without the support of our fellow citizens. Thus, we seek your support in taking Indian Railways to the next level and benchmark it with the best in the world.

I wish you and your family again, a very Happy New Year.

Yours,

Suresh Prabhu”

Read more on IRCTC site.