The Indian Railways is on a high. After successfully constructing the maximum length of rail lines in a financial year, the organisation has established a record in the highest-ever procurement of wagons and locomotives. Member (Mechanical) Sanjeev Handa speaks in the following interview on these and related issues. Excerpts:
The Indian Railways has marked its best-ever performance in the field of rolling stock acquisition. How did this become possible?
As a result of Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee's initiative, we brought out the Vision-2020 document - outlining future goals and perspective plans. Over past two years, we have been consistently working to achieve the aims set out in the document. And the results are evident.
The Railways Minister's focus has been on indigenous production, as she has laid considerable emphasis on plans for setting-up of rail manufacturing units. But do you feel enhancing manufacturing capacity needs to go hand-in-hand with procurement policies, at least for the time being?
In the gestation period, the procurement policies are necessary. The coach factories of the Indian Railways produced 3,079 passenger coaches during 2010-11 - which is the highest-ever production in a single year. The locomotive production units of the Indian Railways also achieved the highest-ever production of 497 locomotives last fiscal, which includes 267 diesel and 230 electric locomotives. The performance of Ms Braithwaite - the wagon producing public sector undertaking which the Railways took over last year - has been duly recognised and the unit has been given the turnaround award 2010 by the Board of Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE). Therefore, the Indian Railways is gearing up in a big way to enhance indigenous manufacturing capacity.
Can it be said now that the Railways have overcome the problem of wagon shortage?
Certainly. The highlight of last year's procurement is that some upgrades in wagons, that have eluded the Railways for almost a decade, have now been applied for the first time. The Railways have not only procured the highest number of wagons, procurements have also been superior in terms of technical specifications. With sufficient number of wagons having now been procured, the capacity to improve freight movement across the country has been enhanced.
The Railways have also registered an achievement in the construction of new lines. In which year was the construction of these new lines taken up?
Some of these projects were taken up in 2004-05. But this has been a landmark achievement: Construction of 709 kilometres of new lines, against the annual average of 180 kilometres since Independence. Besides, doubling works of 769 kilometres and gauge conversion works of 837 kilometres have also been completed. These are records by themselves.