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Railways get a boost as Sitharaman announces more Vande Bharat trains, three ‘major’ corridors, ET Infra

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said that nearly 40,000 normal bogies will be converted to standard Vande Bharat bogies.

While presenting the interim budget, she also announced three major railway corridors including port connectivity corridor, energy, mineral and cement corridor and high traffic density corridor.

In order to fund long-term infrastructure projects like freight lanes and faster trains, as well as to modernize the fleet with newer trains, carriages, and locos, the railway ministry had requested an increase in its budgeted capital expenditures.

Along with updating the signaling systems, the additional capital expenditures would also be used to roll out 300–400 Vande Bharat trains in various configurations, one of which would include sleeper cars.

In the last full Budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term, the government earmarked an unprecedented Rs 2.4 lakh crore for the Indian Railways, marking the highest allocation ever to the national transporter. This allocation continued the upward trajectory set in the previous fiscal year, maintaining a gross budgetary support of Rs 1.37 lakh crore in fiscal 2022-23.

Railways is one of the key drivers of the PM GatiShakti scheme and the National Logistics Policy. The PM GatiShakti – the National Master plan for multi-modal connectivity – has a size of Rs 100 lakh crore, which aims to achieve decongestion of railway infrastructure by 51% by 2024-25. The substantial fund allocation was aimed at the ambitious project of laying new railway lines, aimed at easing congestion within the Indian Railways network and ensuring its preparedness for the future.

Addressing the prime concern behind train accidents, the railway sector prioritized track quality, allocating an annual expenditure of Rs 10,201 crore for track renewals between FY15 and FY23. This is a stark contrast to the Rs 4,702 crore spent during FY05 to FY14 for the same purpose. Furthermore, there has been a noteworthy surge in expenditure on high-grade rails during this period, more than doubling the previous amount, reaching Rs 13,746 crore per year.

Over the span of the current government’s nine-year tenure, Indian Railways has directed a substantial amount of Rs 1,78,012 crore towards rail safety. The average annual expenditure in this regard has witnessed a remarkable increase, standing at Rs 17,801 crore, marking a 2.5-fold rise compared to safety expenditures pre-2014.

Railways rely on their own resources to cover their working expenses, which include salaries, pensions, and asset upkeep. The surplus that railways produces is insufficient to pay for their planned capital expenditures, which include building lines and buying wagons. Extra-budgetary funds and grants from the Central government are used to fund capital expenditures.

  • Published On Feb 1, 2024 at 12:49 PM IST

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