"We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network."
The Indian government has pledged it will spend a record amount on India’s railways, allocating around £16bn (1.48 Rs lakh crore) to improve a number of areas but with a special focus on increasing capacity. Announced in the country’s 2018 budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley has signalled that more services would be facilitated on the subcontinent’s vast rail network through a series of measures that include 18,000 kilometres of line works, converting rail gauges on 5,000 kilometres of track and introducing huge numbers of rolling stock, with 12,000 wagons, more than 5,000 coaches and 700 trains planned.
The Indian government is setting itself bold targets to bring about a faster and more efficient, yet more environmentally-friendly, service – a commitment underlined by its intention to electrify the country’s entire network. Minister Jaitley signalled this approval of the progress by saying when he said there had been significant improvement in the achievement of physical targets. “We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network. 4,000 kilometres are targeted for commissioning during 2017-18,” said Jaitley.
Illustrating that environmental commitment, Piyush Goiyal, India rail minister said in October last year that the country would remove all 19,000 diesel-powered trains from its tracks, replacing them with electric alternatives. “We are giving a relook to the ways of speeding up the electrification process of rail lines across the country,” said Goiyal, as reported by Business Today. Not just motivated by a green agenda, the decision to roll out electrified lines across the country would also save the government existing annual diesel bills of a reported £1.2bn (110bn Rs).
Rail safety is another area singled out in this year’s budget which will benefit from government funding, with policies that give special attention to the maintenance of track infrastructure and the renewal of more than 3,600 kilometres of track. Technology will form part of Indian Railways’ safety-focused campaign with systems that mitigate poor visibility, Fog Safe, a train protection and warning syste and CCTV at every station. The risk posed by unmanned level crossings is also being addressed, with the closure of 4,267 of them over the next two years.
India’s latest budget comes a month after the announcement from the country that it would massively improve the network’s digital infrastructure, with plans to equip 8,500 rail stations across the country with Wi-Fi by 2019. As reported by SmartRail World, when up and running by 2019 it will provide remote and isolated stations with wireless internet, not just major city terminals.
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