New Delhi: The Union budget has allocated ₹64,587 crore outlay for Indian Railways for the upcoming financial year 2019-2020 to expand the railway infrastructure in the country.
In his interim-budget speech on Friday, the finance minister Piyush Goyal said Indian Railways has witnessed its safest year in the history in 2018-19 and the national carrier has been able to remove all unmanned railway crossing across all the broad gauge tracks in the country.
He also outlined the achievements of his government stating that the people of India would soon have world-class train experience through semi-high speed train Vande Bharat Express which is a product of Indian engineering. The minister also hoped that Indian Railways would improve its operating ratio and try to improve it from 98.4% to further 95%.
During the NDA government under Narendra Modi, Indian Railways has seen a huge jump in its capital expenditure. In the last four years the budget outlay has increased from ₹0.96 trillion (2015-16) to ₹ ₹1.48 trillion (2018-19). The increase in expenditure has been attributed to expand Indian Railways infrastructure to increase it carrying capacity and improve the train travel experience.
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The Modi government initiated several reforms in Indian Railways which included complete electrification trying to make India world’s first nation to have its complete railways system on electricity. Another major project that Modi government took was Bullet train that is high-speed train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai and semi-high speed train named Train 18.
However, during the last four years, Railways has been witnessing a huge operating ration i.e. money spent to earn ₹100, which has been around ₹96 on an average showing the financial crisis at national carrier has been still unresolved.
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In the Modi era, the railways ministry got three ministers. The first charge came to DV Sadananda Gowda who held the portfolio for few months but was then shunted out for devoid of any big ideas to lead the ministry.
He was succeeded by Suresh Prabhu who tried several reforms like non-fare revenue, station redevelopment, railway regulator, installation of CCTV cameras, etc. But all the programs remain kind of non-starters. Prabhu was divested from the portfolio following spate of railway accidents during a Cabinet reshuffle.
In September 2017 Piyush Goyal took over the charge for railways and got into a controversy after media reported his plans to scrap GE locomotive unit but the idea was then withdrawn. However, the major decision taken during Goyal’s regime for railways is complete electrification.