Cabinet nod issue delaying Railway projects: Roy

Kolkata: A number of railway projects were getting delayed as prior permission was needed from the cabinet for commercial utilisation of railway land, Railways Minister Mukul Roy said.

"Construction of world-class stations, multifunctional stations and the Eastern Freight Corridor are getting delayed. Various projects under PPP models are also getting stuck as we need prior permission from the union cabinet for commercial utilisation of railway land," Roy told PTI.

Seeking a solution to the problem, Roy and Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal had met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee three days ago. The finance secretary and the secretary (expenditure) of the finance ministry were also present in the meeting.

"Hopefully the issue will be sorted out within a short period of time," he said.

In March 2011, the cabinet secretariat had issued a circular which mandated cabinet clearance to lease out any government-owned land.

Stressing on the importance of mobilising additional revenues through commercial utilisation of railway land, the minister said he wanted to lay thrust on using vacant land also for advertisements.

According to a recent report by the Railways Modernisation Committee, the Railways have 10,000 acres of surplus land in urban centres which have been identified for commercialisation. The total vacant Railway land at present is about 1.13 lakh acre, official figures say.

Essential for servicing and maintenance of tracks and other infrastructure, vacant land is mostly in the form of narrow strips along the tracks. The large stretches of land can be utilised for execution of various infrastructural projects for meeting future growth needs of the railways, he said.

Asked whether his ministry would accept the Anil Kakodkar panel report on railway safety, which suggested imposing safety cess before taking any decision, Roy said the report would be discussed at various levels.

"Whatever is acceptable in the report will be adopted," he said.

On the railways` financial health, Roy said, "There is a financial crunch. But the Indian Railways is not sick. We are not stopping any project due to lack of funds."

For the completion of various ongoing projects, the ministry has sought a one-time gross budgetary support of Rs 1,29,000 crore from the union government, he said.

"We have requested this to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister," he said while pointing out that the department has to pay Rs 73,000 crore annually towards staff salaries after the Sixth Pay Commission report.

He said work was going on for 129 new lines, 46 gauge conversion and 66 doubling of lines. Under his leadership, he said the Railways will take forward `Vision 2020` outlined by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, when she was the Railways Minister.

In West Bengal`s Dankuni area, a diesel locomotive factory is ready for commissioning.

"It will be commissioned within a few days," he said adding that a Rail Coach Factory at Rae Bareli and wheel axle factory at Bihar`s Chapra is also ready for commissioning.

The Railways are going to take over the East-West Metro project here soon, he said.