With an outlay of ₹2.40 lakh crore for the financial year 2023-24 compared to ₹1.40 lakh crore in the FY22-23, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the outlay for the railways is nine times the amount provided in 2013-2014.
The Ministry of Railways was able to spend ₹1.35 lakh crore in FY2021-22, budget documents note.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways said that because of lesser allocation to the railways in the past, the true potential of the sector had not been achieved. “The current outlay will be beneficial for 800 crore passengers who annually travel by railways,” Mr. Vaishnaw said.
The higher outlay, he said, will be used to ramp up production of Vande Bharat trains, which will now be manufactured from four sites, as opposed to the existing one site in Chennai. “Sonipat in Haryana, Rae Bareilly in U.P., and Latur in Maharashtra will be added as manufacturing sites,” he said.
Mr. Vaishnaw added, “Eight Vande Bharat trains have now covered an equivalent of travelling 52 times along the perimeter of the earth. So we now know that the product is well tested and stabilised. It is now time to ramp up supply chain and production. Currently we manufacture one Vande Bharat train in seven days. We want to ramp this up to two to three trains every week.”
Mr. Vaishnaw pointed out that operating ratio has stabilised at 98.22% against 107.39% in 2021-22. Operating ratio is the amount of money the railways has to spend to earn ₹100. A lower operating ratio implies better financial health. “We hope to reduce this number further as the entire electrification process is complete — 85% of the railway network has been electrified,” he said.
He also said that a train run fully on hydrogen will be ready by December 2023, and will be first run on the Kalka-Shimla heritage circuit. The Ministry of Railways is developing economic and social corridors through the railway network: “These corridors will target hilly areas, port areas, tribal areas through the Janjatiya Gaurav corridor,” he said.
On the work for the bullet trains, the first of which will run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, pegged to be commissioned not before 2026, Mr. Vaishnaw said that the previous Shiv Sena government had made it hard to obtain clearances for the project in Maharashtra. “Now the government has changed and clearances are easier to come by,” he added.