21 July, New Delhi
Government think-tank NITI Aayog on Friday approved investments worth Rs. 18,000 crore for high-speed rail projects for major routes of Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata, Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu said at an ASSOCHAM event here Friday.
“We are working on Gatiman Express which is India’s fastest train at 180 km per hour and trying for Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Kolkata which are major routes with a speed of maximum 200 km per hour (kmph) and that will be an investment of Rs. 18,000 crore which has already been approved by the NITI Aayog,” said Prabhu while inaugurating an ASSOCHAM International Conference – RAILTECH 2017.
“When we proposed it, they were apprehensive but now everybody realises importance of it as it is a least-cost option, so we are trying to do that, you can imagine the trains can go at that speed from Delhi to Mumbai and how much travel time will be reduced,” added Prabhu.
He also said that Railways Ministry is working with many countries to increase the speed of operations, including France.
“There are a lot of studies which are going on and they are in a very advanced stage, so we will start implementing that in the next few months’ time,” added the minister.
He added that the Government is working towards introducing cutting-edge technology of future in all aspects of railways with it not only being imported but being co-developed in India.
“We already had about six to eight months ago, a programme in which we called all the major technology developers who had not yet fully developed, commercialized the technology which can take the speed of railways to more than 600 kmph and we are already working with them, companies like Hyperloop,” added Prabhu.
Talking about the use of high-end technology on safety front, he said that self-propelled detection of tracks together with use of ultrasonic machines and geo-spatial technology to alert about unmanned railway crossings are underway.
On laying of railway tracks, he said that automatic track laying machines which are already being used on Dedicated Freight Corridor will now be tried all over the country.
“This has already resulted in increasing the speed of putting the track which was only three kms. per day to almost eight kms. per day and the target is to take it to 20 kms per day in the next three years and definitely we are on track for doing that,” added Prabhu.
He said considering that capital expenditure needed for optimal technology has gone from Rs. 30,000 crore a year to almost Rs. 2,75,000 crore in the last 2.5 years shows the commitment of the Government.
On the rolling stock, he said that two major locomotives are already in use with one from French transport giant Alstom. “It is going to bring in the best cutting edge technology, environment friendly, speed will be good, least fuel consumption and that will available in the next month’s time and that is going to be manufactured in India.”
He said that another locomotive factory would be set up in West Bengal, “We are yet to finalise the bid, but it will already be happening. That again will begin the best technology in fact, all the top global players are vying for it.”
Highlighting that the Government is taking all these steps in a very transparent manner, the Union Minister said that companies like Siemens have made a consortium in this regard. “So you can imagine how serious they are because otherwise they would have come on their own.”
Prabhu also informed that Railway Ministry has started working on revamping, refurbishing and retrofitting of 40,000 outdated coaches.
“We have already stopped manufacturing non-LHB coaches from April 1, next year and all the LHB coaches will be manufactured, so you can imagine the technological up-gradation that is happening at all levels,” he said.
He said that Railway Ministry has also completely revamped the ticket-booking mobile application with many services being made available on one single application. “This is going to bring in a completely different experience for the traveller because he can book it completely on his palm literally, not only booking but anything to do with railways.”
Talking about the recently held huge roundtable conference on technology, he said that Railway Ministry was engaging with all the top global players that had participated in the same.
“I think we have already taken very serious steps, to modernise and optimise the capacity of railway operations and the biggest other technology tool that we will be using and we have already started work on is rail cloud,” said Prabhu.
He said that Railway Ministry has also started working on enterprise resource planning (ERP) which has the potential to save up to Rs. 70,000 crore.
“We are also using technology for each and every aspect of railways, including managerial practices which includes our internal processes to ensure that efficiency is allowed and in fact we will try to plug every possible area where there is a leakage, hoodwinking possible and the system will be made foolproof,” said the Union Railway Minister.