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Business News/ Budget / Budget Expectations/  Railways eyes makeover amid hopes of record capex
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Railways eyes makeover amid hopes of record capex

Capital expenditure for the railways is likely to be increased by about 25% of the FY23-24 budget estimate, taking the budgetary allocation to more than ₹3 trillion in FY24-25.

It is expected that increased capex would also go towards rolling out 300-400 Vande Bharat trains in different formats, including one with sleeper coaches, as well as overhauling of the signalling systems. (HT_PRINT)Premium
It is expected that increased capex would also go towards rolling out 300-400 Vande Bharat trains in different formats, including one with sleeper coaches, as well as overhauling of the signalling systems. (HT_PRINT)

New Delhi: The budgetary allocation for the Indian Railways is expected to hit record levels as the government gears up to support a major makeover for the national transporter with the addition of modern and faster trains, and improved safety features.

Capital expenditure for the railways is likely to be increased by about 25% of the FY23-24 budget estimate, two people aware of the development said. That would take the budgetary allocation to more than 3 trillion in FY24-25 from 2.4 trillion in FY24.

The government is providing higher budgetary capital allocation to the railways since FY23 to accelerate pace of construction of key infrastructure projects including commissioning of dedicated freight corridors, and speedier trains, as well as modernizing the fleet with new-age trains, wagons and locomotives.

Higher budgetary allocation would mean that both passenger and freight rates may be unchanged next year, too, while there would be some reclassification of freight categories.

It is expected that increased capex would also go towards rolling out 300-400 Vande Bharat trains in different formats, including one with sleeper coaches, as well as overhauling of the signalling systems. Upgradation of the rolling stock and the need to fast-track modernization of the network for more efficiency in revenue generation are some other aspects that are expected to be highlighted.

“As we eagerly anticipate the forthcoming budget, our industry envisions the government’s emphasis on decongestion measures and strategic planning. This would help to foster indigenous manufacturing, and contribute to a resilient and self-reliant Bharat. Rolling stock upgradation and modernization, too, need to be fast-tracked," said Vivek Lohia, managing director, Jupiter Wagons.

The safety budget of the railways is also expected to be almost doubled to help it achieve its Mission Zero Accidents target faster, Lohia said. The allocation for the safety budget has stagnated for the past two years at around 11,000 crore.

Another important aspect for the railways next year would be the addition of new trains and to move quickly towards eliminating the waiting list of passengers. The plan, which is expected to be unveiled in the upcoming budget will involve procurement of 7,000-8,000 new trains at an estimated cost of over 1 trillion over the next decade. This would help to add 3,000 daily train trips from the present 10,750.

Another plan to add about 50,000 km of new tracks at a cost of 7.5 trillion over the next 10 years would also be launched in the budget with the aim of building a new generation of stronger tracks of 5,000 km each year to run new-age, faster trains.

The budget is also likely to emphasise the safety aspect of the railway movement to prevent accidents like the one at Balasore in Odisha last year that resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives. This would involve a signalling recast, switching of the electronic interlocking system for railway tracks to a solid-state system network to reduce human interfere-nce and accidents.

Safety additions would also increase the pace of introducing the Kavach rail anti-collision system. The plan is to add 7,000-8,000 km of railway network under the Kavach system every year. A tender for commissioning 6,000 km of railway network is in process.

The expectation from the budget is also on announcements regarding completion of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and substantial progress on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, covering 1,337 km. This is expected to unclog and increase freight movement, and allow the railways to earn more revenue. The railways is budgeted to earn 1.8 trillion from transporting 2,000 million tonnes of freight in FY24 but this is expected to rise sharply in future as railway networks get unclogged to facilitate easier and swift freight movement.

The budget is also expected to unveil the wagon procurement strategy under which close to 30,000 wagons of different designs are expected to be procured by the end of next year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Subhash Narayan
Subhash is the infrastructure editor at Mint and tracks the momentous developments taking place in the space that is fast changing the Indian landscape. He feels that reporting has been a passion that provides the necessary adrenaline rush and keeps you going.
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Published: 30 Jan 2024, 12:34 AM IST
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