Apex industry body has suggested a $3 trillion (Rs1,77,90,745 crore) mega plan for capacity expansion of Indian Railways that will create a freight capacity to handle about 50 per cent of the traffic offered by the economy over the next 15 years.
In a proposal presented to railway minister D V Sadananda Gowda, Assocham said the mega plan is part of the vision of India emerging as a $7-trillion economy by the year 2029-30, when the Railways should be able to handle about 50 per cent of the traffic offered by the economy at that level.
Besides, Assocham said, the growth of the railways would be reflected in growth across various sector of the economy, boosting demand for a whole lot of goods and services, so that Indian Railways become an engine of growth on its own.
''The plan envisages capacity enhancements with required investments worth $2.5-$3 trillion, thereby making Indian Railways an engine of growth by creating jobs across the board at various levels, boost demand for construction, steel, cement, equipment, new type of high load wagons, collapse resistant comfortable coaches, latest signaling and electrical items and open up the railways for all types of new services for long distance passengers, including e-business and entertainment as well as catering,'' noted the study titled 'Gearing Indian Railways for a $7 trillion economy by 2030'.
''We have suggested the new railway minister a mega plan comprising seven-corridor high speed freight network for transporting goods back and forth from manufacturing to consumption centres and from all major ports within specified timeframe of 36 hours,'' said AK Agarwal, chairman of Assocham's National Committee on Rail Transport who led the chamber's delegation along with secretary general DS Rawat.
''Apart from this, it has also been suggested building an ultra high-speed (up to 300 kmph) passenger services connecting all large and identified urban centres. In the existing lines, all trunk passenger routes should be turned to four line networks effectively separating passenger from goods and services and thereby releasing large capacities for both,'' the Assocham delegation further noted.
''The plan will also build in it, promotion of industrial growth so that the synergy of rail transport system and that of manufacturing boost each other and completely transform the economic landscape.''
In order to ensure that Indian Railways operates with commercially viable rates as well as to prevent it from misusing its monopoly power against freight or passengers, Assocham has suggested the immediate setting up of a regulatory body with legal powers to fix all charges that the Railways levies for various services it provides.
The body should have powers to monitor quality of services and adjudicate complaints of misuse of monopoly power, the Assocham study further suggested. ''The proposed tariff fixing body should be expanded to undertake this larger task to improve public acceptance of its role and bolster investor confidence in the network.''
A decision offering full management control to the special purpose vehicles (SPVs) or joint ventures set up for each project component would help boost PPP response from the private sector, the study suggested.
Besides, Indian Railways should create conditions for talented experts in engineering, transportation and project management personnel from the private sector to partner with it just on the lines of how the previous central government encourage private sector participation in Aadhar and Antarix.
Assocham also suggested transformation of railway porter service and to organise it on modern lines by training the porters to provide passenger-friendly services along with efficient trolleys designed to cater to luggage transport.