Stressing on boosting the safety aspect of Railways and its carrying capacity, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced the largest-ever allocation of Rs 1.48 lakh crore capital expenditure for the Indian Railways in 2018-19.
"Railways capex for 2018-19 has been pegged at Rs 1,48,528 crore," Jaitley said in his Budget speech. The amount is Rs 17,000 crore higher than the previous year's budget.
In 2017-18 Union Budget, the total capex of Railways was pegged at Rs 1,31,000 crore.
Jaitley said that modern-train sets with state-of-the-art amenities and features would be commissioned during 2018-19.
The 92-year-old practice of a separate Railway Budget was discontinued from last year and was merged with the Union Budget.
The Finance Minister said that enhancing the carrying capacity has been a major focus of the government. "A large part of the capex is devoted to railways capacity creation," he said.
"Doubling of 18,000 km and work on 5,000 km of third and fourth lines to convert them into broad gauge will eliminate capacity constraint. It will also transform almost the entire network into broad gauge," Jaitley said.
"There has also been significant improvement in the achievement of physical targets by railways. We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network. About 4,000 km are targeted for commissioning during 2017-18," he said.
The Finance Minister said that work on the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors was also in full swing.
He said that 12,000 wagons, 5,160 coaches and 700 locomotives are being procured in the year 2018-19.
He said that a major programme has been initiated to strengthen infrastructure at the goods sheds and fast track commissioning of private sidings.
"A ‘safety first' policy, with allocation of adequate funds under Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh is the cornerstone of Railways' focus on safety," he said, adding, "Maintenance of track infrastructure is being given special attention."
"Over 3,600 kms of track renewal is targeted during the current fiscal. Other major steps include increasing use of technology like Fog Safe and Train Protection and Warning System."
He said that a decision has been taken to eliminate 4,267 unmanned level crossings in the broad gauge network in the next two years.
The Finance Minister said that redevelopment of 600 major railway stations is being taken up by Indian Railway Station Development Corporation Limited. "All stations with more than 25,000 footfalls will have escalators. All railway stations and trains will be progressively provided with wifi," he said.
The government will also install CCTVs at all stations and on trains to enhance security of passengers.
"Modern train-sets with state-of-the-art amenities and features are being designed at Integrated Coach Factory, Perambur. And first such train-set will be commissioned during 2018-19," Jaitley said.
Speaking about the 508 km Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project, Jaitley said, "Foundation for the bullet train project, country's first high speed rail project, was laid on September 14, 2017.
"An Institute is coming up at Vadodara (Gujarat) to train manpower required for high speed rail projects," the Finance Minister added.