Railway Budget 2023: Vande Bharat – the new age passenger trains
Indian Railways is looking to gradually replace Shatabdi and Rajdhani Express trains with the new age Vande Bharat Express trains. At present 75 chair car Vande Bharat trains will be rolled out by ICF, and in the coming years the sleeper Rajdhani-style Vande Bharat trains will run on tracks too. A tender for 200 sleeper style Vande Bharat trains is slated to be awarded by Indian Railways in the coming days.
Railways experts are of the view that Budget 2023 should focus on upgradation of tracks to the 160 kmph speed potential on priority. “Make tracks ready for 160 kmph on select routes, so that Vande Bharath train sets’ speed potential is leveraged. Also, more importantly to get average speeds to 100 kmph,” G Raghuram, Principal Academic Advisor at NRTI says.
Sudhanshu Mani, former GM of ICF and the man behind Vande Bharat also stresses on the need for track upgradation. “Budget declarations are an affirmation of the policies being followed by the government in the long term and allocation for the same in the coming financial year,” he notes.
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“I would think that upgradation of tracks for 160 kmph operation between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Howrah should be a top priority with massive allotment of funds so this sanctioned work gets completed early, particularly in view of the large-scale proliferation of Vande Bharat trains which are at present not being exploited to their full potential,” Sudhanshu Mani tells TOI. He also recommends faster installation of Kavach on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah sections.
Shri Prakash, Former Railway Board Member (Traffic) believes that one of the major reasons for poor financial performance of railways is passenger earnings. “Indian Railways should fully tap passenger demand for all segments, particularly short and medium distance segments where competition from road and air is minimal,” he says.
“Introduction of Vande Bharat type trains offer more choices for middle distance passengers. Railways should introduce more overnight trains on heavy passenger traffic routes with large unmet traffic demand,” he tells TOI.
Railway Budget 2023: Focus on freight traffic
G Raghuram recommends the following:
- Integrate and Nurture Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) with a focus on customer centricity. Attack the commodities market with an industry wise approach like autos, cement, steel etc. Build training competence.
- Start on the Son Nagar-Dankuni part of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and two more, with multi-modal logistics parks along the DFCs.
- Get high HP freight locomotives manufactured on a PPP mode. Focus on export potential too.
Sudhanshu Mani also stresses on the need for a more comprehensive actionable plan for the year for Indian Railways to gain modal share in freight transportation.
Shri Prakash says Indian Railways should give attention to increase its commodity basket, taking measures for attracting more passenger and freight traffic in order to improve its financial performance. “For the last few years the financial performance has been lack-lustre and a large portion of investments has been funded through commercial loans. Unless the financial performance improves substantially year after year, the Railways might get into a serious debt trap,” he opines.
Also Read | Railways earnings jump 28%, 2,000 wagons being added every month
Railway Budget 2023: Other areas of focus
Apart from focusing on Vande Bharat trains, railways should look at making AC passengers affordable, says Sudhanshu Mani. “I firmly believe that non-AC travel will be totally out of place in developed India by 2040 so manufacture of non-AC passenger coaches should be totally stopped and further imaginative positive action be put in action to make AC travel affordable for the common man of India, it’s feasible,” he tells TOI.
“Completion of many stations in the year as functionally-effective, passenger-friendly clean hygienic modern stations as against the meaningless hype of airport-like stations is also required,” he adds.
Shri Prakash says all the key focus areas – rolling stock improvement, capacity augmentation, safety on modernization – are supply side improvements which are badly required. “It’s noteworthy that the government has rightly given attention towards these improvements,” he says.