There is no plan to privatise the Indian Railways, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Thursday, emphasising that this assurance was made by his predecessor too.
Replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the working of his Ministry, he said that it is a complex organisation with a social obligation and the biggest challenge was capital investment in this sector - which was sped up after 2017 when the Rail Budget was merged with the Union Budget.
Vaishnaw also said that till 2014, the capital investment was only Rs 45,000 crore which was made double in 2017 and as of now, the a total of Rs 2,45,800 crore have been infused.
Pointing out that there is absolutely no question of discrimination against any state, he asked the states to work together with the Central government for the efficient operation of railways."We will take up works of development of rail network in your states, you help us in land acquisition there," he said.
About the expansion of the network, he said that prior to 2014, the average expansion of track laying was only 1,520 km per year but has been brought up to 3,000 km per year now.
To the comments of Trinamool Congress member Derek O'Brien, Vaishnaw said that he gave the Vision Document but they executed the works.
About the electrification of the routes, the Minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the direction to shift from diesel to electric engines. "From 2009 to 2014, the average electrification was 608 km per year which was scaled up to 3,440 km per year in 2021 and so far we have electrified over 50,000 km..."
Referring to the new initiatives, he said that the Ministry has planned to roll out 75 Vande Bharat trains till 2024.
"The Vande Bharat series of trains have been made by our own engineers and the two trains which were launched earlier have travelled up to two lakh km so far... we learnt a lot from these two trains and incorporating into the new trains which are to be rolled out soon."
Regarding the work on Bullet train corridor, from Ahmadabad to Mumbai,he informed the House that the work has been progressing on fast pace and so far, 80km of elevated corridors have come up.
On other achievements, he said that "under the guidance of PM Modi, we have introduced Kisan rail, and also rolling out small containers for small businessmen and MSME sectors".
The Minister also admitted that the operating ration has been reduced but very soon it will be better once the cargo carrying capacity is scaled up.
He also said that the stoppage of the trains have been rationalised and efforts are on to scale up cargo capacity so that they can subsidise passenger fares. The subsidy on the passenger fare is Rs 62,000 crore per year.
On the demand to creating new railway zones and divisions, he said that the railway should be operated on regional aspirations.
Referring to the Kerala's Silverline project, he said that the Ministry has been examining the proposal and will take a decision soon.
He also said that we must praise the engineers who have indigenously designed the anti-collision device 'Kawach' which has been successfully tested and the whole world is praising the railways' engineers for achieving this feat.