New Delhi: Indian Railways will build 200 rail overbridges in 2009, four times as many as it builds in a typical year as it does its bit towards the government’s effort to spend more in an attempt to spur growth in sectors such as cement and steel.
“We usually construct around 50 overbridges every year. But this year, we have decided to target 200,” said a Railway Board member, who did not want to be named. The money required for construction, therefore, would shoot up to Rs2,000 crore from Rs500 crore, he said.
The cost of building overbridges is equally shared by the Central and respective state governments. “We can also source some money from the Central road fund to build these overbridges,” the official said. The matter was discussed at a meeting that cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar held with state government representatives last week. During the meeting, Chandrasekhar stressed on the need to speed up government spending to generate demand for cement, steel and labour, besides other components.
Double benefit: The Railway Board decided to build more overbridges after it noticed a steep rise in accidents at unmanned railway crossings. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The government was also looking at issuing faster clearances for infrastructure projects, Chandrasekhar told the meeting.
Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen says the railways can play a pivotal role in getting the economy moving by implementing planned projects. “The railways have a lot of work that has been planned and are ready for implementation. That makes rolling out these projects easier,” Sen said.
According to Arvind Mahajan, an infrastructure expert with audit group KPMG, the railways will need to speed up its procurement processes in order to build more bridges.
“If the processes take time, then there is no point in making ambitious plans. The railways need to work on how fast they are able to award contracts, arrange for suppliers and get the projects going,” he said.
The Railway Board decided to build more overbridges after it noticed a steep rise in accidents at unmanned railway crossings. The percentage of these accidents as a proportion of total railway accidents rose to 37% in 2007 from 16% in 2001.