Railways on zero-accident mission

Suresh Prabhu said the Railways needed money to correct the anomaly of underinvestments, and called for travellers to contribute to the mission. File photo   | Photo Credit: M_A_SRIRAM - M_A_Sriram

The Railways will launch a zero-accident mission envisaging renewal of tracks, more railway bridges, better signalling and rolling out of accident-proof coaches and engines, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.

“Once we implement it fully, the accident rate will go down and speeds will improve, facilities will improve, quality of service will go up and revenue will increase. Customer experience will go up significantly,” the Minister said.

The plan has come amid an increase in number of railway accidents in recent months. “Train accidents, delay of trains and deterioration of service, which is seen today, all are happening because of the underinvestment in the past. The ‘zero-accident mission’ is an expensive proposition, but that is the only way to have safe travel,” he said.

Mr. Prabhu said the Railways needed money to correct the anomaly of under-investments, and called for travellers to contribute to the mission. “My good friends and travellers would contribute a small part of that because how, otherwise, will a public utility finance itself,” he said.

With this objective in mind, the Ministry has planned an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the next five years. Explaining how the additional funds will be raised, Mr. Prabhu said all investments could not come from fares or freight.

“We will do prudential borrowing from institutions such as the LIC, the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, which would be repaid in the next 30-40 years through an increase in revenues,” he said.

The Minister said he was working on increasing the transparency and efficiency of the Railways by bringing in a change in the accounting system, which was key to attracting investments. “I am also putting in place a reformed accounting system, not just commercial accounting which people keep talking about. Something beyond that, going from budgeting to outcomes. The complete chain of events will be captured; this would be a robust and forward-looking accounting system. The idea is to become more efficient, more robust and transformational,” he said.

Moving to commercial accounting was one of the key recommendations of the Bibek Debroy panel on railway restructuring. Mr. Prabhu said he would put in place an information technology (IT) platform to take care of operations, a management information system and so on.

“I have already told the Chairman, Railway Board, to nominate a person who will implement it in the shortest possible time. We will select one of the top five vendor companies in the country and it will be our technology partner in the process,” he said.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 9:09:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/railways-on-zeroaccident-mission/article7601023.ece

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