By Preet Kiran
New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS): In the upcoming Railway Budget, the emphasis will be on the development of infrastructure, 'Make in India' high-speed trains and the completion of incomplete railway projects.
In the Union Budget 2023-24, the entire emphasis of the Modi government will be on infrastructure development, especially projects related to Railways and getting high-speed trains becoming operational as soon as possible.
The Modi government is working on increasing the railway budget by 20-25 per cent to strengthen the infrastructure of the entire railway system. According to sources in the Railways Ministry, there is a possibility of an allocation of nearly Rs 1.8 lakh crore for this sector in 2023-24, which was Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2022-23.
According to Railway Ministry officials, in this year's budget more allocation will be made for laying new tracks, increasing the number of semi-high-speed Vande Bharat trains, introducing hydrogen-powered trains as well as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.
The Indian Railways aims to seek permission from the Central government to meet its target of replacing conventional coaches of all express and mail trains with India-made and German-developed Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches.
Under the Vision 2024 projects, in the second half of the decade, apart from commissioning of new dedicated freight corridors and high-speed passenger corridors, multitracking and signaling upgrades of congested routes have been targeted. The Indian Railways aims to rapidly redevelop the infrastructure of more than 1,000 stations under the AMRUT Bharat Station scheme.
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (MAHSR) was hit hard by land acquisition issues. According to the information presented in Parliament by the Ministry of Railways, the overall physical progress on the 508.09 km corridor as on December 31, 2022, was only 24.73 per cent.
During the financial year 2022-23, the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) was allocated Rs 19,102 crore. According to Railway Ministry sources, the cost of the bullet train project is likely to exceed the estimated amount of Rs 1.08 lakh crore.
It is likely expected that the Union government will increase the budget of the Railways by up to 20 per cent. Earlier, in the pre-budget meeting, the Railway Board had demanded 25-30 per cent more funds in the budget allocation of the Finance Ministry. This time the Union government can allocate a fund of nearly Rs 2 trillion to the Ministry of Railways in the upcoming budget.
The Central government will invest mostly in the modernisation of railways. Along with this, the Railways is also focusing on building better domestic infrastructure for the manufacture of trains. Under this plans are also being made to reduce foreign dependence on the wheels of trains.
The government may also announce more than 400 new rakes of semi-high speed Vande Bharat trains and over three dozen hydrogen-powered passenger trains.
Accordingly, announcement of new trains, including new Vande Bharat and hydrogen-run passenger trains is likely to be made in the upcoming annual budget 2023-24.
The year 2023 is widely believed to be a game-changer for the Indian Railways, after the success of the high-speed Vande Bharat Express trains with the introduction of hydrogen-powered Vande Bharat trains, the sleeper coach version of Vande Bharat, in 2023. With this, preparations are being made to make the experience of the passengers memorable along with providing world class services.
Indian Railways is currently building hydrogen-fuel cell powered eco-friendly Vande Bharat trains to replace the older trains designed in the 1950s-60s. Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had recently announced that this would prove to be a significant step for the Railways.
Hydrogen-powered trains will now operate keeping in view the needs of the middle and lower classes. These trains will prove to be helpful in bringing a transformational change in the daily lives of every Indian citizen. It is one of the biggest green initiatives of Indian Railways.
As per information these hydrogen trains save fuel and produce minimum noise resulting in no pollution at all. These trains will reportedly emit only steam and evaporated water. These trains are going to be India's first and world's second hydrogen train as Germany is the only country which has introduced the world's first hydrogen-run train.
While the exact date of the launch of hydrogen trains is still not revealed, Union Minister Vaishnaw has said that the design of the train is likely to arrive between May and June 2023. An important announcement can be made by the Centre regarding these hydrogen trains in the upcoming budget.
Some major railway projects
Chenab river railway bridge: The world's highest single-arch railway bridge is being built over the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir. This 1.3-km-long project with a budget of $9.2 crore will connect the Kashmir Valley to the rest of India through a rail network. The Chenab river railway bridge is a part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project.
The Chenab River Railway Bridge is a joint venture between Afcons Infrastructure (India), VSL India and Ultra Construction & Engineering Company of South Korea. This is another step towards reaching Kashmir through railways.
Operation of Rapid Train: Rapid train is to be operated between Delhi to Meerut in the year 2025. This entire railway corridor is to be completed in three sections. Its first section is 17-km-long connecting from Sahibabad to Duhai Depot.
Rapid Rail on this section is to be started for travel from March 2023. The railway track work on this section has been completed. Here the work of installation of overhead equipment line is underway. From March 2023, this train will become operational for passengers between Duhai Depot and Sahibabad.
Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project: Construction has begun along a parallel passing through eight districts of Gujarat and the Dadra and Nagar Haveli. After being in limbo for years, the bullet train project has picked up pace recently, including in Maharashtra. According to railway officials, the project could be completed in 2027.
Bairabi-Sairang New Line Railway Project: Work is underway on the Bairabi-Sairang New Line Railway Project to connect the northeastern state of Mizoram with the rest of the country.
After the completion of this project, a new era will begin in terms of communication and commerce in the northeastern region of the country, especially Mizoram. The Bairabi-Sairang project aims to create an additional 51.38 km of railway track in northeast India.
Bhalukpong-Tawang line: The Bhalukpong-Tawang line is one of the important projects of the northeast, which will cater to the extensive needs of the military in the region where tensions with China have escalated. The proposed railway line will have several tunnels and will be built at altitudes above 10,000 feet.