Railway Budget bets big on technology and fuel efficiency

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the Indian Railways is planning to expand sourcing of Solar Power as part of the Solar Mission of Railways, said the Union Railway Minister, adding that the sector would have 1000 MW solar plants in next five years.

By Sai Nikesh D

Presenting the Railway Budget 2015-16 in Parliament on Thursday, the Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that the budgetary allotment for FY2015-16, under capital, is 84% higher than 2014-15.

“A total of 77 new railway projects covering 9,800 km, at a total costing of Rs 96,182 crore, has been sanctioned for the FY2015-16 and this is 2600% higher than the amount sanctioned for the two previous years,” informed the Union Minister.

Addressing the members on the budgetary allocations, the Minister touched upon various aspects that the Railways sector intends to make its mark in the FY 2015-16.

The Minister announced a proposal to launch the ‘Foreign Rail Technology Cooperation Scheme’ for technology intensive and complex projects like speed rising and station redevelopment, which require additional support from specialized agencies in terms of exploring technology options and managing bid processes, among others.

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the Indian Railways is intending to expand sourcing of Solar Power as part of the Solar Mission of Railways, said the Minister, adding that the sector would have 1000 MW solar plants in next five years.

In a move to implement new and the latent advertising policies, the Indian Railways would harness all avenues including offering stations and trains for corporate branding.

Under a Costal Connectivity Program to be launched this year, the Railways in partnership with the concerned ports will deliver rail connectivity to Nargol, Chharra, Dighi, Rewas and Tuna ports.

This connectivity programme is expected to mobilize investments of approximately Rs 2000 crore and also proposes to launch projects worth Rs 2500 crore through Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) route, used prominently for the construction through private participation, added the Minister.

By setting up ‘Kayakalp Council’ for business re-engineering and ‘Malviya Chair’ at IIT-Varanasi, for technology innovation, the Indian Railways intends to achieve the PM’s vision for technology development and manufacturing in India, says the Minister.

While informing that in 2015-16, four research centres would be developed in selected universities under the Research and Designs Standards Organisation (RDSO) excellence unit.

For this purpose, he emphasized on need for investment in applied research in the sector and also invited technological solutions for this purpose. Under this initiative, the Ministry of Railways, HRD and Science & Technology would enter a consortium for setting up an Investment Sharing model for to take up research projects.

The size of the Plan Budget has gone up by 52% from Rs 65,798 crore in 2014- 15 to Rs 1,00,011 crore in 2015-16, which includes 41.6% support from the Central Government and 17.8% from Internal generation.

In this regard, the Minister said that a Financial Cell under Railway Board would be setup to manage extra budgetary resources. To finance remunerative projects, the Railway Ministry would rely upon the low-cost-long-term insurance and pension funds.

To crowd in investments from the funding institutions or the partners, the Ministry intends to set up Non-Financial Banking Company of a Public Sector Unit, for raising long term debt from domestic as well as overseas sources.

On a whole, the Ministry says that it will monetize its assets instead of selling them.

To ease process of doing business, the Ministry proposes a single window interface system by involving its vendors in a Vendor Interface Management System.

Unveiling the future targets, the Minister said that in the next financial year, the Ministry will undertake the construction of 970 Road Over Bridges and Road Under Bridges with a total costing of Rs 6,581 crore, which is 2600% higher than number of RUBs/ROBs sanctioned for the current year.

The Minister further said, “Building Partnerships with key stakeholders for long term financing and overseas technology, improving last mile connectivity, expanding fleet of rolling stock and modernization of station infrastructure,” are the key goals the budget suggests to ensure over the next five years.

For this purpose, he said, the Ministry will leverage additional resources and envisages investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in next five years.

Expressing the thrust areas of Indian Railways like Resource Mobilization for higher Investments, improved infrastructure, the Minister exuded confidence that the sector would become prime mover of economy once again.

This article was published in The Dollar Business on February 26, 2015

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