Railways may step up investment for augmenting network in FY25 full budget

Railways, which added 14,985 km of tracks during 2004-14, raised it to 31,180 km during 2014-24. (Photo: AFP)
Railways, which added 14,985 km of tracks during 2004-14, raised it to 31,180 km during 2014-24. (Photo: AFP)


  • Indian Railways plans a big increase in its investment to lay new train tracks in the upcoming budget as part of efforts to modernise the network, boost train speeds while making rail travel safer.

New Delhi: India's vast rail network may see the addition of safer and faster tracks this year with the addition of fresh lines at a cost of 50,000 crore, two people aware of the matter said.

The central government, which has been steadily increasing the budget for new tracks over the years, may boost allocation by a sharp 39% from the figures in February's interim budget, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. A higher allocation in the Union budget in July will allow the Railways to augment its network, especially in congested stretches and between cities that have seen rapid growth.

The Railways had set aside 21,000 crore, 26,000 crore, and 34,500 crore for new tracks in FY22, FY23, and FY24 (revised estimates). The interim budget for FY25 raised this further to 36,000 crore.

However, despite the steep rise in allocation, the length of tracks to be added may not be substantially different from the previous years, given the use of better-quality rails to run faster trains safer, and higher cost of construction.

Faster development of new lines, including gauge conversion, doubling, tripling and quadrupling of tracks is also required to expand the coverage of semi-high speed trains such as Vande Bharat that require better and stronger tracks to attain speeds over 200 kmph, one of the two people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Laying new tracks will be part of the Railways' Vision 2047 document, under which it expects to add 100,000 km tracks including some replacements over the next 25 years at a cost of 15-20 trillion. Broken down into five-year goals, this plan targets 25,000 km of new tracks over the next five years, with an investment of over 3.5 trillion, while yearly goals would be laying 5,000-5,500 km of new lines every year.

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“The focus of Railways has been on increasing infrastructure, which includes expanding the network by adding new lines. The national transporter added 5,200 km of new tracks in FY23, 5,300 in FY24 and would target 5,500 km in FY25 with higher investments," said a Railway ministry official, one of the two people cited above.

Railways, which added 14,985 km of tracks during 2004-14, raised it to 31,180 km during 2014-24.

Questions sent to a railway ministry spokesperson remained unanswered till press time.

“Strengthening infrastructure for facilitating movement across the country is a good initiative by the Indian Railways but it should bring more clarity on its plan to prevent haphazard growth of the network. Railways is getting good capital support from the Centre through the budget, and this should help it focus all its attention on augmenting infrastructure and take up projects that improve safety of travel," said Subodh Kumar Jain, a former Railway Board member.

Jain said that the new line programme should capture infrastructure growth in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Jaipur, Indore, Chennai and Mysore that have seen sharply higher economic growth higher than the national average. They require enhanced connectivity, including that from the Railways, he said.

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Earlier, Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had indicated that laying new tracks would be a key to expanding railway infrastructure to every part of the country.

At current costs, laying 1 km of tracks would cost around 15 crore. This could vary depending on the movement of prices of basic inputs such as steel as well as the availability of land for laying tracks.

The Railways expects the Centre to maintain or slightly enhance the level of gross budgetary it provided this year in the interim budget. For FY24, the Centre provided a record gross budgetary support (GBS) of 2,40,200 crore, a 51% increase over gross budgetary support of 1,59,300 crore (revised estimates) in FY23. For FY25, the GBS has been raised further to 2,52,000 crore, which the Railways feels should be maintained to enable it to carry out various infrastructure development projects.

The Railways' focus on expanding its network is in line with projected growth in rail traffic, both passenger and freight. A rail ministry study showed 800 crore trips by rail, 200-250 crore by road and around 35 crore by air in India annually. The 800 crore figure is projected to reach 1,000 crore by 2030, which would require significant capacity expansion.

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