In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the railways and the Punjab government have decided to form a joint company to fast-track expansion of the rail infrastructure in the state as well as taking up new projects, including creation of ultra-modern railway stations and laying of new rail tracks.
Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who was accompanied by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, announced the joint development venture for the railways here on Monday after attending a public rally. Prabhu said the new venture would transform railway infrastructure and make it a truly modern entity.
“Railway stations would be optimally utilised for commercial activities by making malls and shopping complexes. Whatever profit the company would make would be used to improve railway facilities,” he added.
Addressing the media after paying homage to Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at the former’s ancestral village, the railway minister said the initiative would help to connect missing rail links in the state, besides modernising important stations. Prabhu said modernisation of the Amritsar railway station was the first initiative under this partnership.
“The idea to float this company was discussed when the deputy chief minister (Sukhbir) met me a few days ago in New Delhi. We are working on the modalities of the company in which we may also involve private players and local civic bodies,” said Prabhu, adding that the Union government, department of railways and the Punjab government would be stakeholders in this company.
The Union minister said Punjab would be the first state in the country to be picked for modernisation under this scheme. “This model has been successfully implemented in China. The development of railway stations under this company would be done while keeping in mind the local heritage,” the minister said.
Hailing Prabhu’s announcement, Sukhbir said state government officials would hold a meeting with railway officials in Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.
Prabhu also announced that the railway stations at Khatkar Kalan and Nawanshahr would be upgraded and work in this regard would start within a few months. He said train service would be started between Jaijon-Doaba and Amritsar via Nawanshahr and Khatkar Kalan.
On the demand of Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, Prabhu assured a survey of the new railway track between Rahon and Samrala to connect Khatkar Kalan with the rest of the country. He said the Union government had also decided to connect all commercial towns near the border with railway tracks. He said discussions in this regard had been held between railway and defence ministries.