New Delhi: Indian Railways commissioned 30% fewer tracks in the last financial year, the lowest in the first four years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
Indian Railways commissioned 1,861km of tracks during 2017-18, a decline from 2,855km in the previous year, according to railways data submitted in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The railways commissioned 2,828km of tracks in 2015-16.
Last year’s performance widely trailed the railways’ target of commissioning 3,500km of tracks.
Railway line commissioning means a train can be pressed into service on the line after completion of all trials on the new track. It comprises new lines, gauge conversion and doubling of tracks.
A senior railways official said on condition of anonymity that “the focus is now more on electrification and doubling of tracks.”
“Everyone knows 40% of railway tracks are used beyond their capacity. So, the focus is on easing traffic on the current lines as it will bring revenue,” the official said.
On adding new destinations to India’s railway network, he said “the government’s policy is clear that for new infra projects which include railway lines, the state governments need to invest either in form of funds or land as their contribution.”
According to railways data, commissioning of new lines more than halved to 409km last year, from 953km in 2016-17. Gauge conversion fell more than two times to 453km last year from 1,042km in the previous year. Doubling of tracks touched 999km last year from 882km in 2016-17.
Former Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai said “gauge conversion had to come down so that investments can be diverted to new lines and doubling of tracks.”
“However, the total commissioning of new lines and doubling of tracks should not come down below 2,000km every year to maintain average growth in infrastructure development,” he added.
Sahai said doubling of tracks will allow the railways run more trains and ease traffic, offering immediate returns. Adding new lines is however essential to ensure growth of the railway network, he said.