ASSOCHAM calls for 2-yr moratorium on new trains
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on Thursday demanded a two-year moratorium on introduction of new trains, an immediate grant of Rs 20,000 crores to Indian Railways from the general budget half of which should be used for implementing urgent safety related measures and rest for transformation into a new generation Information Technology led high-speed and efficiency transportation system. In a pre-budget memorandum to Railway Minister P.K. Bansal, the chamber hoped this would mark a new beginning to put the ailing Indian Railways on the track again towards total modernization and capacity augmentation. It has also reiterated the need for Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority (RTRA).
Making a number of easily implementable suggestions for action ASSOCHAM has urged that the government should announce its commitment to a ten-year for Rs 10 lakh crores total modernization and expansion programme for the railways and link it with a fare rise to finance such total change telling the public what was the vision of the railways the government was promising to be implemented this very decade.
Such linkage could help gain public support for the fair rise that was inevitable if the railways are to be rescued from a serious crisis, it said.
The chamber said the refusal to revise passenger fares for the last 14 years had brought the country's largest transportation system to the perilous financial situation with almost zero surplus and severe funds crunch. "This had led to huge slippages in various safety related measures and rolling stock and track improvements that were urgently needed."
Pitching for full and early implementation of the holistic change in railways recommended by the Sam Pitroda and Dr. Anil Kakodkar headed committees, ASSOCHAM also called for creating a consensus for raising passenger fares across the political divide, linking such an increase to the benefit that passengers would receive from larger passenger capacity and safer travel.
The chamber has recommended addition to the current programme of two east and west dedicated freight corridors, a high speed freight corridor connecting Delhi with Hyderabad-Chennai-Bangalore and raising the existing track on this route also to run high speed passenger trains above 150 kmph.
ASSOCHAM has also called for replacement of the existing Integral Coach Factory (ICF) designed coaches with Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) design coaches over a specified term and selling off existing coaches after converting them into shelters for disaster relief victims.