Network congestion was identified as the biggest constraint of the Indian Railways in a White Paper released by railways minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday.
While freight loading has grown by 1,344% and passenger kilometers by 1,642%, the route kilometers has grown by only 23% in the last 64 years, the report said.
The White Paper — the fourth by a railways minister in the last two decades — argues that network expansion and modernisation has not happened at the requisite pace because the railways has suffered chronic and significant under-investment.
The railway expenditure as a percentage of the transport sector spending declined from 56% in the 7th plan period (1985-90) to 30% in the 11th plan period (2007-12). The share of the railways in the overall GDP has been static at 1%.
“As the growth of the economy picks up in the years to come, the Indian Railways will have the challenging task of carrying incremental traffic and goods,” says the report.
Instead of spending resources thinly, as done over the past few decades, the document argues for enabling a system of assured funding for “priority projects”.