Public sector banks have been told to formulate business plans to fund rail infrastructure projects and put an end to the complaint of neglect towards Kerala by the Railways, Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said on Monday.
Mr. Prabhu was speaking after jointly dedicating the Women’s Facilitation Centre in Thiruvananthapuram Central and a host of passenger amenities in Kollam, Kannur and Ernakulam Town railway stations along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The Union Railway Minister said the Railways were keen on commencing the projects identified to be taken up on a joint venture mode with the State in 2017. “This will be in addition to the budgetary support and we will partner for station development, new terminals, railway lines and even doubling.”
Acknowledging that Kerala had not got its due over the years for railway network, Mr. Prabhu said the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was rectifying it and had provided ₹1,014 crore budgetary support for 2016-17. The joint venture pact with Kerala shows the spirit of cooperative federalism highlighted by Mr. Modi.
“We will partner with Kerala for development of infrastructure and will leverage the equity by market borrowings,” the Minister said.
The Railways will organise a Round table in February to mobilise funds from outside the budget. A sum of ₹8.5 lakh crore is being pumped into the Railways and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has given ₹1.50 lakh crore. Banks should come forward for funding infrastructure projects. Likewise, pension fund and other unutilised funds can be used. Mr. Prabhu also urged the Chief Minister to tap NRI remittances for the development of the Railway network of the State.
Asserting that the focus was on the common man and enhancing passenger amenities, the Railway Minister said 100 stations had been provided high-speed Wi-Fi already and it would be doubled in 2017. Wi-Fi facility would also be introduced on some trains, he said.
Kerala can also look forward to Hamsafar Express, an air-conditioned train, high-speed Tejas trains and Antodaya Express, an overnight train for the common man. On the Railway Medical College at Railway Hospital Thiruvananthapuram, the Minister said the rules of the MCI were a hurdle and discussions were on with Health Minister. J. P. Nada to overcome it. He said Kerala figured high on the list.
The Union minister said out of the board thinking was needed to mobilise resources and the Railways had set up Non-fare Revenue Directorate already. The attempt was to generate ₹10,000 crore revenue next year for creating more infrastructure facilities.
The Chief Minister, in his address, urged the Railways to take steps to overcome the hurdles in developing the rail network. Minister for Public Works and Railways G. Sudhakaran called for urgent steps to rectify the fissures on the tracks.
Legislators O. Rajagopal, V.S. Sivakumar; General Manager, Southern Railway Vashista Johri; and Divisional Railway Manager Prakash Bhutan; spoke.
Wi-Fi facility, Ladies Waiting Hall and Train Information LED display boards in Kollam, escalator on Platform one in Kannur and Paid air-conditioned hall in Ernakulam Town stations were commissioned through video-conferencing.
Source - The Hindu