New Delhi: Several important rail infrastructure projects conceived by railway minister Lalu Prasad to improve and expand infrastructure and enhance goods carrying capacity are yet to take off and the Planning Commission has attributed these delays to red tape.
The projects, at least one of which was conceived three years ago, are critical because they will create additional capacity, especially for freight movement. On many routes, the Indian Railways is operating at peak capacity in terms of freight traffic. Almost 60% of the goods transported in India take the rail route and freight traffic rose at about 10% in the last year.
The Planning Commission, India’s apex policy planning agency, took a dim view of the progress of these and other major railway projects and wrote a letter last month to the ministry on the issue, according to a railway ministry official who did not want to be identified.
In the letter sent three weeks ago to the Railway Board, the apex decision making authority of the railways, the commission criticized the lack of progress in the Dedicated Freight Corridor project conceived in 2005 that aims to connect the four metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata—with a railway freight line.
No progress: Passengers wait for trains at the New Delhi railway station. The Rs6,000 cr project to modernize the station, bids for which were to be decided by September, is among several mega projects to be delayed. ( Rajeev Dabral / Mint)
A government official, who did not want to be identified, said: “They (railways) got the approval (the Union cabinet cleared it in February) saying they will do both PPP and EPC. Now they say they will not do PPP. They think they will find Rs40,000 crore to fund the project internally or by themselves. This means their ability to do other projects will suffer.” EPC refers to engineering procurement and construction, where companies undertake a project for a fee. PPP refers to public-private partnerships where private firms hold stake in the project.
Similarly, the process for acquiring land for a locomotive factory in Madhepura in Bihar and a coach factory in Rae Bareili in Uttar Pradesh is yet to be completed. The deadline for both is the end of the year.
The Rs6,000 crore project to modernize the New Delhi station, bids for which were to be decided by September, is the latest among several big ticket projects proposed by Prasad to be delayed.
The presence of five mosques and 12 temples in the area earmarked for modernization is the latest reason being proffered for the delay. A railway official working on this project who did not wish to be identified said: “Many of these structures are of historical importance. We need to talk to the people concerned and then find a way out as using force is never a good idea,” said this officer.
The New Delhi railway station was the first of 22 stations earmarked for modernization with the participation of private firms, along the lines of the development of the Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore airports. The modernization plan includes the retail spaces as well as hotels to make the project viable to the private companies.
Mint had earlier reported that the addition of one extra stage in the bid process delayed the project by two months to December this year.