In what can be called a stimulus for safety-related works in railways, the Rs 1-lakh crore dedicated safety fund, which was expected to be used over five years may now be used in the next two years.
"For safety-related initiatives, we are never short of funds. The dedicated safety fund that was expected to be used over a time period of five years may well be spent in two years now, if required," railways
minister Piyush Goyal
said on Wednesday. He added that the government is also planning to restructure railways
board by downsizing staff strength in Rail Bhawan to improve efficiency, while departments like One-ICT and Transformation cell are being merged with operating team and mobility respectively. Addressing a press conference on the key measures taken so far under his tenure, Goyal said that in order to attract more players to the station re-development programme, developers will also get the option to mortgage the land allotted to them and raise capital. Apart from this, the railway board has approved a proposal for a longer lease period of 99 years for private redevelopers instead of 45 years planned before.
The Narendra Modi government had lined up Rs 1.19 lakh crore under Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) for five years. For FY 2017-18, RRSK is being proposed to fund about 37 per cent of safety works planned by the ministry of railways.
Out of total Rs 53000 crore that will be used for safety purposes in 2017-18, Rs 20,000 crore will be coming from RRSK.
"The board has already included foot-over-bridges and platforms to the category of safety. Across the country, we are immediately installing more than 3,000 escalators. To improve track related works, a global tender to immediately procure 700,000 metric tonnes of rail has been floated early this month," Goyal added.
For the current financial year, the major outgo from RRSK will be for traffic facilities - Yard remodelling & others (Rs 3,085 crore), Rolling Stock (Rs 1,731 crore), Road Safety (Rs 705 crore), Road Safety (Rs 4,512 crore) and Track Renewals (Rs 9,961 crore). The minister also added that the staff strength in railway board will be downsized. Meanwhile, a five-member committee that was set up to come up with suggestions on safety is set to submit its report by the second week of December.
When asked about the changes in station re-development policy, the minister said that after several rounds of consultations with 200-odd companies, the board has decided to bring changes in the station development programme. "Now, developers will be able to mortgage land and raise capital. To maximise value, the lease period has also been increased to 99 years," he added. A high-powered committee headed by the Secretary Railway Board has been constituted to restructure Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) as well as related processes with a view to fast-track redevelopment of stations and monetization of vacant railway land parcels. The committee's report is expected by next week.
Goyal also issued an employees' charter for time-bound redressal of railways
employees' issues related to dues, entitlements and grievances. In phase 2, a charter of Rail users will be finalized and notified in the next one month.