The Indian Railways, which has witnessed delays in completion of several important projects, is aiming to finish all of them by 2022, on the occasion of 75th Independence Day. It also sees the option of allowing private operators to run trains as an opportunity to provide world class services.
In an interview with IANS, Minister of State for Railways Suresh C Angadi said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that all the pending projects and works be completed by 2022. We are focusing on completing pending works, like doubling and tripling of tracks, electrification, installation of CCTVs and signalling system upgrade."
"New projects will be taken up only after completing them," Angadi said.
The railways has witnessed delay in several projects, like building dedicated freight corridor, electrification and doubling of tracks in many parts of the country.
When asked about giving trains to private operators, the Minister cited the example of private TV channels and said, "The entry of private players will generate more jobs and investment opportunities. In the long run, a lot of development will follow due to the competition."
In countries like China trains run at 400 kmph. But in India trains were not running even at 160 kmph, he said. "To compete with the world, we have to opt for investment from many sources. When a private company or people comes and invests in railways, it will create opportunities to develop economy," he said.
According to the Railway Ministry, besides the Lucknow-New Delhi and the Mumbai-Ahmedabad routes being given to the IRCTC for operations, it's mulling to allow private operators to run inter-city train services on 14 routes, 10 overnight and long-distance and four suburban trains.
The railways proposes to allow private operators on the Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Lucknow, Delhi-Jammu/Katra, Delhi-Howrah, Secunderabad-Hyderabad, Secunderabad-Delhi, Delhi-Chennai, Mumbai-Chennai, Howrah-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai routes.
On opposition of the Congress and other parties to corporatisation and privatisation of railways' manufacturing units, the Minister said, "The Congress never thought about development. It has always opposed development."
"We have not got to think of the Congress, but development and competition, and let the economy grow and create employment opportunities," Angadi said.
Citing examples, he said, the national highways remained undeveloped till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took it up and today even foreign countries were appreciating them.
The railways has proposed to corporatise Rae Bareli Modern Rail Coach factory in UP.
On the second Vande Bharat Express to J&K -- almost eight months after Modi flaged off the first train from New Delhi to Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency, in February -- an evasive Angadi decided to turn his focus on praising the Prime Minister, his vision and policies.
"First of all I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for his vision. When he became the Prime Minister he thought of developing railways and improving economic corridor. When he launched the Vande Bharat Express to Varanasi, he felt why not it should reach Vaishno Devi. Thus, keeping in mind peoples' faith and feeling he dedicated the Vande Bharat Express to Katra for Vaishno Devi pilgrims."
The Minister did not forget to eulogize the BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for bold steps, like abrogation of Article 370. "It's the beginning of a new era for J&K as Home Minister Shah has dedicated the train for J&K," Angadi said.
On the railways' investment plans in J&K, Angadi decided to take a long-winding political route without forgetting to bash the Congress and its politics.
On being pressed further on the issue, he said, "Not only railways but other ministries too have their plans. It (the development) will be demand-oriented."
Angadi said 40 Vande Bharat trains were in the pipeline and would soon start operating to different locations.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)