Free Press Journal

PMO red flags foreign trips in name of high speed trains


New Delhi : The high speed trains, including the bullet train, remain a pipe-dream since first proposed a decade ago by Lalu Prasad during his tenure as the railway minister, though nearly 250 railway officials have gone on tour to more than 30 countries all these years to make the project a reality.

Another 40 officers would have gone to China on April 1 for a fortnight training programme for the High Speed Rail Technology (HSRT) operations, but for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asking the foreign ministry to refuse the “political clearance” to their trip.

Enough of these joy trips without any results on the ground, the PMO said, expressing its displeasure over the Railways going slow in infrastructure, be it the high speed trains, electrification or doubling of the tracks. What use going abroad for training when execution of all these projects is way below the target by the end of 2016, it asked.

It noted that the Indian Railways still do not have a single high-speed rail (HSR) with the operational speed of over 200 km per hour to warrant the officers’ travel abroad for training to run such trains. The fastest one is the Gatimaan Express, which plies between Delhi and Agra at the top speed of 160 km per hour.

The Modi government took keen interest in the high speed trains, but the PMO regretted that nothing happened except many conferences and the officers’ visits to countries like Japan, Korea and China in the past one year. Even Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Railway Board chairman A K Mital recently visited Japan.

The PMO wants the Railway Ministry to speed up the infrastructure projects before putting in any proposals for the foreign trips. It wanted to know what steps the ministry took after the PM’s principal secretary Nripendra Misra wrote to the Railway Board chairman in January.

In his missive, Misra had regretted little progress in the government’s resolve to develop and modernise the railway facilities. “While reviewing the progress up to 2016, against the target of 1500 km of doubling, only 531 km has been achieved. In electrification, against the target of 2000 route km, only 1210 km has been achieved,” the letter said.