Highlighting railways' poor health, a high-level safety review committee on Friday suggested far reaching changes in its infrastructure, seeking Rs one lakh crore investment which included mopping up Rs 5,000 crore as safety cess from passengers, and no new trains.
The committee headed by former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar suggested setting up of a railway safety authority as an independent body and bringing commissioner railway safety, presently under civil aviation ministry, under its ambit.
Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi who received the report appeared unwilling to impose any additional burden on the passengers in the form of safety cess.
"These are all suggestions by the committee. We have not decided yet," he said indicating there are several other ways to generate revenue to implement safety committee report.
He said much depends on the support of the finance ministry as railways is understood to have sought enhanced budgetary support in the upcoming Railway Budget.
The national transporters was provided a budgetary support of Rs 20,000 crore in the last Railway Budget.
"We have to see whether finance ministry will give us the money or we will raise it of our own," he said.
The committee among its 101 recommendations suggested advance signalling system including in-cab signalling and elimination of all level crossings across the country.
Proposing a revenue model to implement its suggestions, it has sought Rs 5,000 crore as safety cess on passengers annually for the next five years and a matching grant from Centre, deferrment of dividend of Rs 5,000 crore due, road cess of Rs 1,000 crore, and an income of Rs 4,000 crore from Rail Land Development Authority earnings.
Taking note of the unsatisfactory safety record of Indian Railways, Trivedi had constituted the high level safety panel in Septemeber to review the whole system and suggest measures to prevent accidents.
Headed by Kakodkar, the high-level safety committee comprises of former Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan, IIT director Sanjay Dhande, N Vedachalam of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and GP Srivastava of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
The committee has suggested constituting a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for implementation of advance signalling system on 19,000 km trunk route.
It has recommended for maintenance of safety related infrastructure at an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 crore and new LHB coaches to enhance passenger safety at an estimsted cost of Rs 10,000 crore over five years.
The committee in its report has suggested for setting up new research units - Railway Research and Development Council, Railway Research Centres and and Advance Research Institute to carry out safety-related practice worldwide and recommending suitable upgradation measures for Indian Railways.