With the new Minister for Railways declaring openly that he would not need to raise funds from the budget bill of the upcoming budget year, the magic wand of Piyush Goyal, is now set to reform the railways.
The Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest Railway network is set to fiance its upgradation and management from its internal resources. The 65,000 KM public carrier, also the backbone of India has seen massive reforms since the Modi government at the Centre assumed its reformation agenda.
Yet the railways have seen an overall decline of performance, with multiple issues gnawing its futuristic lustre. The Railways have also been unable to monitor and manage tracks properly which has also led to several derailing incidents in the recent past.
Mr Goyal, a former Chartered Accountant, has been credited with revamping the Indian energy sector, and has given the world jitters when it comes to a variety of new pricing regime whereby rural electrification and renewable energy needs seem to be reaching closer to realisation.
Taking a cue from the famous revamping model put in place by Lalu Prasad Yadav, a former Railway Minister in the UPA-1, was accredited with making railways a profitable enterprise after decades of registering losses.
The Railways are today catering to not only the downtrodden of the Indian citizenry but also has a devoted customer base in the upper middle class and middle class commuters. The railways have innovated new pricing models aiming at bridging revenue deficits for non-freight and freight customers.
The upgrade of the Railway networks is the top most priority of the modern-day regime. The Railways look to provide more clean and hygienic platforms and trains, which adhere to time and reach out to the remotest of areas. Along with this the urban transit systems in big cities like Mumbai and New Delhi also call for structural changes to meet the needs of the ever-growing population.
This is not just one sector which needs attention, while providing high-speed trains and the bullet trains to meet the need of faster mode of transportation and developing dry ports with dedicated freight corridors spanning the country are also the need of the times.
Also o the list features a dedicated tourism railway network which facilitates all India tourism by providing state of the art trains like the ‘pink city’ express on several routes. The railways are also focusing on providing better catering services and investing in home-grown technology to boost upgrading the railway.
All the above targets need capital. The Railway Minister’s new revenue generation model is aimed at making the railways a self-sustaining evolving business. The options of PPP module have been put in place and 100% FDI in Railways has also been approved which has seen Japanese aiming to bag the bullet train contract on a b-o-m basis.
Yet there are many hurdles before the sustainability of the railways assumes a reality.The cash strapped railways need support from the budget, yet the Rail Minister is keenly mulling options like pricing, and service delivery to make the railways self-reliant.
The effective road ahead though has not been made clear, yet a good start would be to make the railway employees more accountable and professional. The move may hitch the system in the beginning, but the railways then will generate sources to make revenue and register profits, which will serve the greater good in the long run.