Kolkata: Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu today said that Indian Railways is not getting enough cargo though it has a capacity to handle 1.2 billion tonnes annually. He said the problem was an issue external to the railways sector. “We are very geared up to handle cargo of up to 1.20 billion tonnes this year. We are ready. We told the CM (Mamata Banerjee) also that we can handle more coal but we are not getting enough cargo,” Prabhu said at a Bharat Chamber of Commerce session.
“So, if we can get more cargo we will be more than happy, we are geared up for everything. The next working season, which starts mainly in October, is the time when we have the pick up in demand for cargo. I hope that the demand picks up and so we are able to post even better results for this year,” the minister added.
Prabhu described Railways as the most eco-friendly form of transport which is a key component of the ‘Make In India’ programme. “By improving physical connectivity, the Railways are significant to economic growth and can add 2-3 per cent to our GDP,” he said adding that the operations needed to be efficient and commercially viable. On the various schemes announced in the last budget, he said that 79 such schemes had already been implemented.
“In fact each of the budget announcement was made into actionable point. Monitoring has been made online,” he said further adding that this year they will be investing Rs 1,10,000 crore which is the highest-ever amount invested. Once it is implemented, issues like congestion, delays and renovation of networks would be addressed.
Prabhu said there had been no significant capacity addition in the railways during the last 15-20 years and networks like the Delhi-Howrah route were operating beyond their capacity. So far the governments have not invested enough in the railways and avoided modernisation, the minister said, adding that they were investing 120 billion USD in the next five years.
Funds are also being pooled in from states under the process of co-operative federalism, he said. Besides Maharashtra which has agreed to invest Rs 10,000 crore in the next four years in the Railways, 16 other states have also agreed to invest.
PSUs like COAL India and SAIL have also agreed to invest their money with us, the minister told. When asked about the eastern freight corridor, he said they would try to complete it by 2019.