Arunendra Kumar is Member (Mechanical) entrusted with charges to ‘look after’ the post of Chairman Railway Board (CRB). A day before the completion of his term as the acting CRB on Monday, Kumar spoke to HT about his experience and achievements. Excerpts:
The impression is that because of the current instability in the Railway Board, major tasks are being neglected. Is that true?
It is actually quite the opposite. A substantial amount of work has been done. The forged wheel factory at Rae Bareli is taking off, as are the Mumbai elevated corridor plans. The wheel factory at Chapra in Bihar is ready for inauguration, while the coach factory plan at Pallakad in Kerala has also been activated. Locomotive plant proposals at Madhepura and Marhaura, both in Bihar, are also taking off.
The Railways are largely seen as having failed to fix issues relating to passenger amenities such as catering and cleanliness. Comment.
We are actively working on these issues. We have made it mandatory for catering contractors to have a base kitchen in the premises of a station area. Standard bid documents (SBDs) have also been worked out. Once these processes take shape, a visible change will come about.
Is India serious about pursuing plans to run high-speed trains?
A fresh study will shortly begin on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. If we get political clearances, we will be able to move in rapidly with these plans.
The bio-toilet plan seems to be progressing at a slow pace.
This task will take some time, as Indian trains have as many as 2.5 lakh toilets. Two thousand of these have already been fitted with green toilets, while the Railways are targeting to complete 4,000 more toilets by the end of this year. By 2017, every new coach manufactured will have a bio-toilet. Also by 2022, all coaches in the inventory of the Indian Railways will have green toilets.
What is the progress on plans to set up the Rail Tariff Authority (RTA)?
Will the body have advisory powers only? The RTA is likely to be set up shortly through an executive order. The Law Ministry had certain queries about the proposal, which have now been sorted out. The body will have recommendatory powers, as the final decision making authority must remain with the executive. But, in the general course, the recommendations of the authority are likely to be accepted.
Does the Railways have an adequate number of wagons for the implementation of the food security act?
We will shortly be floating bids for acquisition of about 1000 wagons. Carriage of food grains will not be a problem, as the Railways do have an adequate number of wagons.