“The next five years should change the face of Indian Railways. Faster trains, modern trains, swanky stations, skilled staff, should be the railways of tomorrow,” stated the White Paper tabled just before the Budget was presented. It was former railway minister Mamata Banerjee who had last presented a White Paper in 2009. This time the government plans to bring out a Vision 2030 document later in the year which will contain a blueprint for long-term investment in the railways.
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According to the White Paper, though there are several challenges before the railways in terms of resource constraints and stressed finances, an ambitious five-year plan has been drawn up.
The White Paper also highlighted challenges that the railways face in terms of growing demands from consumers, quantum of investment and quality of delivery.
It has also highlighted certain areas that need “urgent attention” such as cleanliness, punctuality of services, safety, terminal quality, capacity of trains, food quality, passenger security and ease of booking tickets.
“The realisation is there that if the vicious cycle of under-investment is to be turned into a virtuous cycle of prosperity, crutches of support will have to be abandoned. Indian Railways will have to generate its own resources for its development,” the paper said.
It also stated that by 2020, Indian Railways will undertake measures to ensure delivery of safe and punctual services and increase average speed by 50 per cent and load to 1.5 billion tonnes.