India TV Budget Conclave: Railway, IT and Communication Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced that India's first Hydrogen train prototype will run on Indian railway tracks in December this year, while the first bullet train is targeted to run in India in August, 2026.
Replying to a plethora of questions on Railway, IT and Communications, Vaishnaw said: "140 km pillars have already been built, 8 rivers have been bridged and all 13 stations in Maharashtra are almost ready for the Bullet Train, which will run at 320 kmph speed. The Japanese PM sent his close associate to monitor the progress, and he was literally amazed at the pace of progress and quality of work."
On Hydrogen train, Vaishnaw said: "Hydrogen train technology is very complex, where hydrogen fuelis converted to electricity to run trains. Only 2-3 countries have developed this technology. Prime Minister Modi wanted India not to follow other countries, but take the lead in this technology. Already all individual systems, like fuel cell system, power train system, vehicle control system, have been integrated and by December 2023 the first hydrogen train should roll on Indian railway tracks. It was a tough target, and the train has to undergo tests because human safety is of prime concern."
On Indian Railways developing its own Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system named KAVACH for enhancing train safety, Vaishnaw said, while other countries are implementing ATP on 2G or 3G, with a few countries relying on 4G, Prime Minister has set a target of opting for 5G. This is a massively complex target. I am going to Secunderabad on Sunday (Feb 4), to study the contractual plan on 5G in detail at the Centre for Excellence."
The Railway Minister praised the progress of Vande Bharat trains, saying: "Prime Minister Modi had given the Vande Bharat concept in 2017, it was ready in 2019, and for two years it underwent tests over several lakh kilometres, and now practically one Vande Bharat train is being built every 8 to 10 days. Out target is manufacture two to three Vande Bharat trains every week. Prime Minister Modi is a very, very demanding boss."
Vaishnaw said: "While Vande Bharat trains run at 180 kmph speed on a stretch of 500 to 600 km, we are now focusing on Vande Metro shuttle type trains on a stretch of 100 km between two cities. These trains will run at every 30 to 45 minutes on the European model. The prototype will be ready in 12 to 15 months and after trials for one year, serial production will begin."
On the spate of accidents involving cattle hit by Vande Bharat trains, Vaishnaw replied: "We have prepared fencing designs, one of 0.75 metre height and the other of 1.4 metre height to avoid such accidents. Vande Bharat train is designed as such from the front, so that its kinetic energy can be absorbed and dissipated after being hit by a 250 kg cattle."
Elated over an allocation of Rs 2.41 lakh crore for Railways in this year's budget, Vaishnaw said: " 4,500 km new railway tracks will be laid, and in FY 2023-24, 7,000 km new tracks will be built. On an average, daily 12 km of new rail track will be added. After pilot project of redeveloping 3 railway stations in Gandhinagar, Bhopal and Bengaluru, 53 stations will be redeveloped. Overall, 1,275 stations will be redeveloped. A train's life is normally 35 years and these were earlier designed for speed between 70 to 80 kmph, which has now been upgraded to 100 kmph. Now we will lay tracks to handle trains at 130 to 160 kmph speed. For this, nearly 1,000 flyovers or underpass are being built. This will help in segregating cattle and others from running trains."
On hiring for jobs in Railways, Vaishnaw said, "Recently more than 2 crore youths applied for 1.45 lakh jobs in Indian Railways. Due to Prime Minister Modi's solid and razor sharp focus on transparency, there were no paper leaks. Apart from 1.45 lakh jobs, there is a huge family of suppliers, vendors, One Station, One Product unique local product concept being implemented in 750 stations, providing jobs to local craftsmen. Recently a customer who bought black pottery at Azamgarh railway station, secured an export order for the artisans. Imagine the power of such a concept."
The Railway Minister ruled out privatization of Indian Railways, and said: "Those making such allegations seemed to be living in a different world. Both my predecessor Piyush Goyal and myself have clearly said on the floor of Parliament that there was no question of privatization of Indian Railways. The railway tracks, the trains, the stations, the overhead wires, everything belongs to Railways. Railways is a strategic sector which has a huge social obligation. It is a sector which serves the poorest of the poor. So, there is no question of privatization."
On discontinuation of fare concessions to senior citizens, Vaishnaw said: 'Already the Railways provides 55 per cent subsidy on rail fares to all citizens. This passenger fare subsidy comes to Rs 52,000 crore. Apart from that, Railways provide subsidies on transport of food and fertilizers. Our aim to keep railway travel affordable for the poor too."
On long waiting lists in trains, Vaishnaw said: " Every year, 800 crore people travel on railways. India's population is 130 crore, means one person undertakes several trips on railways. This is expected to go up to 1100 crore. This will require huge investment for building more capacity. "
On Telecom sector, the Communications Minister said: "Already deployment of 5G spectrum is going on at a fast pace to the allottees who got through auction. For linking unconnected areas, 40,000 new towers have been sanctioned for installation in next three to three and a half years. Already 15,000 towers have been installed. The Prime Minister had given us a massively difficult target to set up India's own telecom stack end-to-end. The target was given in 2020, and by April, 2022, Made in India, Designed in India, telecom stack was tested causing sensation across the world. First, 1 million simultaneous calls were tested in April-May, secondly, 5 million simultaneous calls were tested in September between Chandigarh and Gurugram, and in November-December, 10 million simultaneous calls were tested."
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