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Budget to propose record train tracks

Newer rail tracks are critical for a faster network.
Newer rail tracks are critical for a faster network.

Summary

The Union railway budget may propose laying a record 100,000 km of new train tracks over the next 25 years.

The Union railway budget may propose laying a record 100,000km of new train tracks over the next 25 years to modernize the network and boost train speeds, two people aware of the discussions said.

The railway budget will be presented along with the Union budget on 1 February.

The budget may also set aside 10,000 crore to electrify 7,000km of broad gauge line in FY24, one of the two people cited above said. This will complete the electrification of its entire network.

Newer rail tracks are critical for a faster network, given that express and mail trains in India continue to run at a colonial-era average speed of around 50 kmph.

So, the new lines will be constructed keeping in mind the requirements of high-speed and semi-hi-speed trains, such as new-generation Vande Bharat trains that can touch 180 kmph.

Laying the new tracks will be part of a new vision document for the national transporter and will be done in phases over 25 years, the person cited above said.

Yet, the railways would look to start the programme with a new track construction target of around 4,000km in FY24 itself.

The budget for new tracks may also be doubled to over 50,000 crore.

At current costs, laying normal 100,000km tracks would cost 15-20 trillion. This could vary depending on the movement of prices of basic inputs such as steel.

So, for 4,000km tracks in FY24, the railways may need up to 80,000 crore, for which it expects the finance ministry to raise its budgetary allocation by 30% to over 1.8 trillion in FY24, from a level of just over 1.4 trillion in FY23.

Emails sent to the ministries of railways and finance on the plans remained unanswered till press time.

Along with speed, the alignment of new tracks is expected to be kept in a way that improves the safety of trains and reduces noise and vibration.

Modern locomotives and coaches already reduce much of the discomforting jerks experienced in earlier trains.

The railways has decided to electrify its entire broad gauge network by December 2023. Earlier, it had intended to complete most work in FY23 so that just about 5,000km of electrification was left.

But with the railways completing the electrification of just 1,223km in the April-October period of FY23, a lot of work in this direction will also be required to be completed in FY24.

A railway ministry official said the entire broad gauge line would be electrified in FY24 without any further extension. In the past seven years, it has stepped up electrification by more than five times the amount of work completed in the seven-year period before that.

A record 24,080 route km or RKM (37% of present broad gauge routes) have been electrified since 2014 against the electrification of 4,337 RKM (7% of present broad gauge routes) during 2007-14.

Also, out of the total 45,881 RKM electrified till March 2021, 34% were electrified in just the last three years.

As of 31 October, out of 65,141 RKM of the broad gauge network of Indian Railways, 53,470 RKM have been electrified, which is 82% of the total broad gauge network.

The record electrification of 6,366 RKMs in Indian Railways’ history was achieved during 2021-22. Earlier, the highest electrification was 6,015 RKM during 2020-21.

The railway ministry had earlier said that the total rail electrification would contribute to “net zero" emissions by the year 2030 by drawing its entire electrical load from renewable energy sources. The target for the national transporter is also driven by this goal.

Full electrification of railways’ broad gauge system will not only help reduce emissions from diesel-run trains, but it would also result in annual savings on fuel bills of about 13,500 crore.

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