Expressing optimism that the railways has bounced back after the Covid-induced lockdown last year, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the Rajya Sabha Wednesday that upto 91 per cent suburban trains have been restarted.
“Another positive development during the pandemic has been doubling the speed of freight trains. Imagine the impact this will have on logistics and the MSME sector if goods are delivered faster,” he said.
While the speed of freight trains earlier was 22-23 km per hour, it is now up to 45 km per hour, the minister told the Upper House.
Reiterating his statement made in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Goyal said that Indian Railways will never been privatised and equating private sector participation to privatisation was “old-fashioned thinking.”
“Private sector helps with making the stations better and this does not mean stations are privatised. They are our stations and they belong to the nation,” he said.
“When private vehicles ply on government roads, why can’t private trains that offer better facilities to passengers run,” Goyal asked the House.
Hitting back at criticism on the functioning of railways, the minister said that delay in projects is mainly due to opposition ruled states not making land available.
Goyal gave examples of Opposition-ruled states, including Kerala and Maharashtra, where land acquisition was not complete for several projects but projects are seeing progress in BJP-ruled states such as Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The minister said that the focus is on projects which are 80% completed so they can start generating revenue. He also said that several projects were announced in the Congress-led UPA regime but the announcements were not followed through.
“In West Bengal, the oldest pending project dates back to 1974-1975. It is a 110 km project from Howrah. Only 42 kms was completed and land was not made available for the remaining,” Goyal said.
The minister also said that the capital expenditure of the railways had increased to Rs 2.15 lakh crore this year, its highest ever.
Goyal also told the House that 58 super-critical projects will be completed this year.