Friday, 25 September 2020

On Track? Indian Railways : Vision 2020

Updated: March 13, 2010 12:21 pm

The Indian Railways’ contribution to national integration has been unparalleled. It has knit India together by connecting all the regions, and almost all the states, in a single transport network. It has always played a unique role in meeting the transportation needs of the common man, while simultaneously serving as a critical infrastructure facilitator for the carriage of goods. In the coming decade, it will continue to keep its service focus on the underprivileged and the poor, even as it expands its services for the more fortunate. It will cater to the needs of the people across geographies and income strata as well as ethnic, religious and social diversities. It will better connect centres of commerce and industry, places of pilgrimage, historical sites, and tourist attractions, as also ports to hinterland. Railways also must reach the remote and underserved areas of the country to bring them into the national mainstream of development. The Indian Railways has been playing this role in the past, but not fully. Our Vision is to deepen and broaden this agenda of inclusive and integrative growth and to take it to new heights.

Railways As A Catalyst Of Creation Of Large-scale Employment Opportunities

Vision 2020 addresses one of the biggest development challenges of contemporary India, namely, Growth with Jobs and not Jobless Growth. Productive employment opportunities must be created for all able-bodied Indians, especially for our youth and preferably in their own habitats. By pursuing bold and unprecedented, ambitious targets in the much-needed expansion and modernisation of the railway network in India, Vision 2020 aims at considerably enhancing the Indian Railways’ contribution to the national goal of achieving double-digit GDP growth rate on a sustainable basis. It will accelerate economic growth, open up new avenues for employment in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors and also promote geographically and socially balanced growth.

Railways As A Promoter Of Environmentally Sustainable Development

Vision 2020 also addresses another major development challenge, which is both national and global in nature, namely, reducing hazardous carbon emissions that have triggered climate change. So far, there has been inadequate recognition of the Railways’ contribution towards India’s climate protection efforts. Railways are more energy-efficient and less polluting than other modes of transport. It uses less land than the road sector. By carrying more people and goods than other modes of transport, Railways can help protect the environment while promoting balanced development. Therefore, I believe that Indian Railways can be India’s principal and foremost response to the challenge of Climate Change.

            The specific targets and measures to achieve the above-mentioned strategic goals are summarised below:

Leapfrogging To A Higher Growth Trajectory

Gross Revenue of the Indian Railways has remained at a level of around 1.2 per cent of India’s GDP over the last 10 years. Our Vision is to take it to 3 per cent in the next 10 years.

            India’s GDP is expected to exceed US$ 2 trillion (Rs 90 lakh crore) by the year 2020. With GDP at this level, Indian Railways has the potential to grow to around Rs 2,70,000 crore of revenue from around Rs 90,000 crore at present . To realise this potential, the Indian Railways must achieve annual growth of 10 per cent over the next 10 years by developing a sharper commercial focus with a strong social commitment.

            Realisation of this potential calls for a quantum jump in every dimension, breaking away from the path of ‘incremental change’ to one of rapid growth. It also calls for shunning the ‘business as usual’ mode of functioning in favour of an organisation-wide mindset that is ready to accept bold and innovative ideas at all levels. The central theme of the Vision is to prepare the Indian Railways for this Big Leap Forward.

Network Expansion

The route network of Indian Railways has expanded very slowly in the past. In 1947, Indian Railways inherited 53,996 of route km of rail network and today we stand at 64,099 km – an increase of only 10,000 km over 62 years. We have to break away from this orbit of low achievement to reach a higher orbit of ambitious growth. While doubling of lines, gauge conversions, electrification and many other positive things did happen during the last six decades, the overall expansion of the Indian Railways to areas it did not serve earlier has been unacceptably slow.

            Therefore, the Vision proposes to add 25,000 km of New Lines by 2020, supported by government funding and a major increase in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Of this, at least 10,000 km would be socially desirable lines regardless of their economic viability in the short run. This will, of course, include the completion of the backlog of 11,985 km of lines already sanctioned.

            This programme would specifically aim at improving the connectivity to our far-flung areas such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and all the States in the North-East, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim. We also must not forget smaller States and Union Territories and large districts unconnected by the railways today.

Capacity Creation

The ambitious goals of growth cannot be achieved without creating adequate capacity in the Indian Railway’s network. The Vision aims at a major augmentation of capacity through doubling and quadrupling of lines, complete segregation of passenger and freight lines on High Density Network (HDN) routes, substantial segregation on other routes, and electrification on busy trunk routes.


  • More than 30,000 km of route would be of double/multiple lines (compared to around 18,000 km today). Of this, more than 6,000 km would be quadrupled lines with segregation of passenger and freight services into separate double-line corridors. This shall include Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai, Kolkata-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai routes on which Dedicated Freight Corridors would come.
  • Maximum speed of passenger trains would be raised from 110 or 130 kmph at present to 160200 kmph on these segregated routes and, similarly, maximum speed of freight trains would be raised from 60-70 kmph to over 100 kmph. The gap between maximum and average speeds of both passenger and freight trains will be minimised.
  • Gauge conversion programme would be completed. The entire network (barring the hill and heritage railways) would be in Broad Gauge.
  • 33,000 km of routes would be electrified (i.e. additional electrification of 14,000 km in 10 years).

While expanding the network, the Railways will examine and adopt innovative land-saving solutions like building infrastructure in a multi-tier format.

Train Safety Mission: Zero Tolerance For Accidents

The Vision aims at making railway operations free of accidents, be it derailment, collision or fire on trains. Advanced technologies in all spheres including track, rolling stock and signaling would be used for this purpose. High-quality training to improve the skills of employees to manage new technology is critical, and steps would be taken to provide the same. Nearly 70 per cent of the fatalities in railway mishaps take place at unmanned level crossings. Today there are around 17000 unmanned level crossings. We envisage that in the coming years not a single level crossing in the country will remain unmanned or unprotected. Here too, advanced technologies would be adopted to meet the challenge. I urge State governments to partner with the Indian Railways in this major task.

Reducing The Indian Railways’ Carbon Footprint

Indian Railways has already taken several measures to perform its responsibility towards climate protection. Some of these measures are:

(a)        Introduction of new suburban trains in Mumbai with regenerative braking features saving up to 3540 per cent of the energy.

(b)        A Project Design Document (PDD) has been developed in association with the World Bank for registration under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The project has already received Host Country Approval and is expected to result in annual reduction of approximately 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions

(c)        Annual reduction of 0.14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through free distribution of 26 million CFLs (4 CFLs per family) to Railway employees in replacement of energy inefficient incandescent lamps. The project is entirely financed with the carbon credits earned under CDM framework.

(d)       Induction of light-weight stainless steel coaches with enhanced passenger carrying capacity and new designs of freight stock with higher payload to tare ratio.

(e)        Increased production of high-horse power, fuel-efficient diesel locomotives with plan to switch over completely to the manufacture of these locomotives at Diesel Locomotive Works (DL W).


In the coming decade, besides big initiatives like the Dedicated Freight Corridors and the High Speed Passenger Train Corridors, which have the potential to reduce millions of tonnes of Cal emissions per annum, the following additional initiatives are being envisaged:

(i)         Harnessing both existing tools (like COM) and emerging tools like Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) for transfer of technology as well as financing.

(ii)        Saving up to 15 per cent of energy through a improved energy efficiency in both traction (accounting for 87 per cent of energy consumed by Indian Railways) as well as non-traction use.

(iii)       Induction of new-generation locomotives and rolling stock, that use less energy and less material.

(iv)       Energy audits to improve energy efficiency on thousands of its stations and offices and adoption of LED lighting and Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).

(v)        Sourcing at least 10 per cent of energy used from renewable sources such as solar power and biomass.

(vi)       Procurement of only 3-star or higher-rated products for achieving energy efficiency

(vii) Railways will also undertake a massive plantation drive along the Railway tracks, in railway colonies and use grass-turfing as a protective anti-erosion measure on the slopes of the banks along the track.

All these measures would not only save our environment but also yield a good stream of revenue through carbon credits.

Need For Bold And Innovative Measures

In order to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the Vision, Indian Railways will have to think out-of-the-box and undertake numerous bold and innovative steps in every area of its activities. Some of these are mentioned here

Reinventing Passenger Services With ‘Change For A Better Tomorrow’ As The Motto

The look and feel of Indian Railways in 2020 will be radically different from what it is today. Railways will eliminate shortage and meet the demand for rail travel in full. Passengers travelling long distance or short distance between cities or availing of our suburban services must find the journey on Indian Railways pleasant-fast, punctual, comfortable, clean, and, indeed, memorable.

            Increasingly, Passenger trains must run at high speed in separate corridors. Railways must cater to all classes, eliminate queues for tickets and congestion in coaches. Innovative marketing ideas and modern technology will be used to make tickets and travel information accessible by internet and mobile phones across the country within the next two years. It will be our endeavour to see that no train traveller has to wait for more than five minutes for getting a ticket even in the unreserved category. This will be done to achieve an important passenger-friendly objective of reducing the total journey time. When buying a train ticket is quick and hassle-free, and the journey itself is fast and comfortable, we envisage that many travelers would prefer railways over other modes of transport, thereby increasing Indian Railways’ passenger revenues.

            Double-decker coaches and longer trains will be used on popular inter-city routes. Modified Electrical Multiple Units or Diesel Multiple Units will gradually replace old coaches of slow passenger trains to improve passenger experience and bring down cost of operation.

            Partnerships with State and City Authorities will be established to augment the infrastructure and manage suburban services under a single management. Suburban trains must be passenger-friendly with adequate accommodation for all categories of passengers, especially for ladies, students, senior citizens and the physically disabled. Both suburban and long-distance trains must also look smart and colourful, reflecting our belief in and commitment to ‘Change for a Better Tomorrow’.

High-speed Rail Travel

In the coming decade, Indian Railways must catch up with the developed railways of the world in the matter of speed of trains. The current effort to provide fast non-stop train services under the new brand of Duronto will continue. In addition, the Vision aims at raising the speed of regular passenger trains to 160—200 kmph on segregated routes, which will bring about a major transformation in train travel. For example, train journey between Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata will become an overnight service.

            The Vision 2020 also envisages the implementation of at least four high-speed rail projects to provide bullet train services at 250-350 kmph, one in each of the regions of the nation and planning for at least eight more corridors connecting commercial, tourist and pilgrimage hubs.

            Six corridors have already been identified for technical studies on setting up of High Speed Rail Corridors. These are:

  1. Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar;

Ii.         Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad;

iii.        Hyderabad-Dorn aka I- Vij ayawada-Chen nai;

  1. Howrah-Haldia;
  2. Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam;
  3. Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna

These could be built as elevated corridors in keeping with the pattern of habitation and the constraint of land in our country. The Railways will use the PPP mode for investment and execution, and draw on frontier technologies incorporating the highest standards of safety and service quality.

            In the next 10 years, we would develop 50 World Class Stations which compare with the best, internationally. Once redeveloped, these stations would be well-integrated with other modes of transport in the cities and easy to access and use.


Re·inventing Freight Services

The Vision targets a significant reversal of the erosion of market share, lost to the road sector in the past, and will take Railway’s share in the freight movement from 35 per cent at present to at least 50 per cent. This will be done by creating adequate carrying capacity, achieving cost-effectiveness, improving quality of service and providing new value-added services on a customised basis. Railways will establish partnership with major logistics providers and close linkages with customers with a view to satisfying the specific needs and helping the customers reduce their logistics costs. Information technology would be used to track the movement of cargo and meet delivery schedules. The Railways would strengthen their position in the bulk segments they serve at present and expand into new commodities like automobiles, fly-ash, consumer goods, etc.

            In keeping with this goal, adequate number of wagons includinq high-speed and high-capacity wagons to meet specific requirements of commodities would be procured. We envisage that the annual procurement of wagons would go up from a level of less than 25,000 wagons now to a level of around 75,000 wagons in four wheeler units.

            Two Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC), on the Eastern (Ludhiana-Dankuni) and Western (Mumbai-Delhi) routes would be operational well before 2020. This would create adequate capacity to meet the freight demand and also elevate the quality of service to global standards. In addition to these two corridors, we plan to start work on four more DFCs, namely North-South (Delhi to Chennai) and East-West (Howrah to Mumbai), Southern (Chennai to Goa) and East-Coast (Kharagpurto Vijaywada).

            The Railways would use their existing land bank to the maximum extent and help set up multi-modal logistics parks and industrial hubs along with DFCs, on the pattern of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project.


Mobilising Other Sources Of Revenue

(a) Parcel Services

Parcel services will be managed as a separate business and run from dedicated terminals with separate parcel trains rather than from station platforms. On major routes, this service will be run as efficiently and professionally as air cargo services. The revenue from parcel services would be targeted for at least a fivefold increase in ten years from the present level of around Rs. 1600 crore per annum.

(b) Advertising

Indian Railways will adopt a new market-driven strategy to unlock the enormous potential to increase its earnings from advertising on its websites, trains and at stations. Freight trains and passenger trains (both inside and outside), CCTV at stations, multi-lingual magazines for rail passengers and merchandising opportunities for a number of items ranging from tickets to food stuff and other material served on trains offer promising possibilities for advertising. Railways can also think of launching a separate TV channel to disseminate information and earn revenues through advertisement.

(c)        Commercial Use Of Railway Land

Similarly, commercial utilisation of vacant railway land, not required for operational use, can generate sustainable streams of revenue to finance the growth of Railways. This will be done in a professional, transparent and accountable manner. Some of such land may also be utilised for setting up of schools, medical colleges, nursing colleges, etc. where wards of railway employees will have priority in admission.

(d) Telecom & It

Our Vision is also to tap similar revenue generation potential in the telecom and IT sector, using the 64,000-km long ‘right of way’ for laying optic fibres, signaling towers and other infrastructure assets that Indian Railways owns. This will be done in collaboration between the Railtel Corporation and private sector companies in a transparent framework.

Technological Excellence

Technology is an integral part of the Vision to move Indian Railways towards the goals set out. Some of the areas for which technology will be used are:

  • Design of modern coaches including Double Decker coaches.
  • Re-design of second class coaches to make them more comfortable.
  • Design of high-capacity wagons.
  • Reduction in cost of operations by enhancing productivity and asset life.
  • Track, signaling and rolling stock including predictive and diagnostic tools, anti-collision devices and protection of level crossings for improvement in safety and reliability of operations to achieve zero accidents and zero failure in equipments.
  • Raising the speed of trains.
  • Improvement of the interface with passengers and freight customers.
  • Ticketing through mobile phones.
  • Improvement of control and voice/video communication to aid IT applications across the Indian Railways.
  • A satellite-based train tracking system to provide real-time information on train location and other train related information to passengers through a variety of devices including mobile phones.
  • Green toilets in all coaches
  • Mechanical cleaning of trains, stations and platforms with requisite training to railway employees to use technology for maximum recycling of water.
  • Waste management, with the aim of achieving “near-zero waste”, by adopting the principle of 3-Rs Reduction, Recycle and Reuse

We must establish one of the worlds’s most advanced Research and Development capabilities for transfer and indigenisation of technology and breakthrough innovations. For meeting these objectives, the Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), CRIS and other technical bodies of the Indian Railways would be revamped to enable them to work with clear mandates and deliverables. R&D will be integrated with the core of Railways operations.

Investment For Growth

It has been tentatively assessed that 64 per cent of the investment of roughly Rs.14,00,000 crore needed for augmentation of capacity, upgradation and modernisation of Railways in the next 10 years could be mobilised by Railways throughs surpluses from high growth in freight and passenger traffic, supported by prudent borrowing and use of PPP initiatives. PPP can be used to establish win-win partnership with private sector in a number of areas such as developing world class stations, setting up of rolling stock manufacturing units, logistics hubs, Kisan Vision projects, high-speed corridors, expansion and management of the extensive network of Optical Fibre Cables (OFCs) and big infrastructure projects like new lines and Dedicated Freight Corridors.

            Even then, it is obvious that the cost of completing this massive expansion and modernisation of the railway system cannot be borne by Indian Railways alone. Internal and extra budgetary resources will simply not be adequate to finance the Vision. There is thus a need for Government to set up an Accelerated Rail Development Fund (ARDF) to finance the remaining 36 per cent to the tune of Rs five 1akh crore to be spent over the next 10 years. An amount of roughly Rs 100,000 crore would need to be set aside from the ARDF to clear the pending backlog of socially desirable, New Line and Gauge Conversion projects as a one-time grant for the Government. Higher levels of budgetary disbursement from this Fund in the initial years would ensure that infrastructure is built quickly to support growth.

Excerpts from the document Vision-2020 presented in the Parliament by Railway Minister.

By Mamata Banerjee

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