That much for fulfilling commitments made in her budget speech last year. “Rakes for the new trains are ready, but the trains have not been inaugurated as senior political leaders who were supposed to inaugurate them have been preoccupied with other things. We have now decided to flag off all the 40 trains on a single day”, Banerjee told reporters on Friday.
Ahead of the upcoming rail budget – the Railways Minister is consumed with other worries: With the Railways facing its worst financial crisis of the last ten years, she may be unable to apportion funds for new infrastructure projects.
As things stand, the Railways are far behind the ambitious targets set for itself at the start of this fiscal.
Of the target of the construction of 1019 kilometers of new lines, the Railways had built only 123 kilometers until the end of November this year, official documents say.
“The figures do not reflect the real situation, as construction activity is expected to speed up now after the end of the monsoon period. We expect to lay approximately 700 kilometers of new tracks by the end of this financial year”, a senior ministry official asserted.
On the inaugural day of the two-day conference of Railway general managers, Banerjee referred to the delay in the execution of projects, asking the GMs to personally monitor the projects and review the performance of contractors from time to time.
Concerned with the health of the railway finances, Banerjee asked the GMs to conduct surprise visits and inspections at all levels for improving freight loading and ensuring better movement of goods trains by removing detention delays.
In her hour-long speech, the Minister also referred to the recent increase in cases of train derailments, saying that there should be no laxity in ensuring the safety of passengers.
The Minister also emphasised on the need for ensuring the punctuality of trains, suggesting that a core group be set up by the GMs to monitor punctuality on a daily basis.
Speaking on the occasion, newly appointed Minister of State for Railways Bharatsinh Solanki said that the Railways needed to match the growth of the country’s GDP – which was growing at 9-10 percent.