Satellites to help merge modes of transport: Suresh Prabhu
Railways minister Suresh Prabhu offered hope on Thursday to people seeking seamless travel across different modes of transport in the country.Updated: Mar 18, 2016, 08:42 IST
Railways minister Suresh Prabhu offered hope on Thursday to people seeking seamless travel across different modes of transport in the country.
The minister expects the integration project to pick up pace this year after roping in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for satellite mapping of India’s transportation needs.
“We are seriously pursuing the plan. I have recently held a series of discussions on the matter with roads, transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari,” he told journalists at a session of the Unplugged@HT programme.
The broad contours will be declared in the Vision 2030 document that the railways are in the process of finalising, he added.
The railway network, the world’s fourth largest, is a lifeline for about 23 million people, mostly poor, but years of underinvestment have strained the system to the limit.
As part of the elaborate plan, a citizen will be provided a common mobility card that will allow travel on trains, buses, taxis and ships across the country, and may be used for shopping too.
The project is in the nascent stages and plans to integrate bus and metro services in the metropolitan centres are still on the drawing board.
Though the railways have lost a chunk of the freight market to roads in past decades, the minister does not see this as competition.
“Roads are an enabler and not a threat to the railways. In line with global trends, roads and ships are increasingly emerging as feeder points for the railways. All the transportation modes are poised for integration and growth in the coming years,” he said.
Speaking on the contentious issue of privatisation of the railways, Prabhu said his support for private funds should not be construed as support for the concept. “The state-owned transporter had suffered because of misplaced policies of the past. The shelf of approved projects is worth a whopping Rs 5 lakh crore,” he said. “There are capacity constraints and structural issues. We are attempting to address these.”
Dismissing suggestions that the politically important state of Uttar Pradesh – which goes to polls next year – was awarded a big share of rail projects in his budget this year, Prabhu pointed out that Odisha, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, which were not election-bound, had also received a big jump in allocations.
Talking on strategies to ramp up rail finances, Prabhu said officers have been instructed to work on expanding the freight basket, while the carrying capacity is also being enhanced.
“The results will start showing in coming months”, he said.
Talking on initiatives to improve passenger services, Prabhu quoted from results of a preliminary survey conducted by a private group that says cleanliness standards have improved at major railway stations.
“The system of providing on-board catering is also being revamped with the idea of providing for multiple culinary choices to passengers,” said the minister.