New Delhi: Amidst Rrailways coming under financial strain on account of losing freight and passenger traffic to the road sector, the NITI Aayog wants the Ministry of Railways to take a big leap of faith and replicate the success of the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) and National Highway Development under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Noting that the current financial structure may not help the Railways to connect with the nook and corner of the country, the premier think-tank panel is of the view that the exercise should be undertaken a separate programme with the support of the Ministry of Finance.
“The Railways continues to lose both freight and passenger traffic to the road sector. In the last two decades, the Railways has not been able to match the investment, which has been seen in the road sector. This has resulted in a scenario in which large parts of the country are not yet on the rail map. If it has to be reversed, then only solution is for the Railways to embark on the model adopted under the National Highway Development and the PMGSY,” said a senior official in the NITI Aayog.
The think-tank panel is likely to recommend the Ministry of Railways to draft a proposal for a new scheme to connect the places and areas which are not yet on the rail map. “The operating ratio of the Railways currently is close to 100 per cent, which suggests that the ministry on its own could not take up a major scheme to expand the rail network. Therefore, the Ministry of Railways should come up with a scheme, which could be supported by the Centre along with the state assistance to give a major fillip to the need of the expansion of the railways in a short span of time,” added the official.
The NITI Aayog is of the view that the Railways has consistently been losing passenger traffic to the road transport for distance up to 500 kms. “That the Railways has been losing the freight to the road sector had been established as a fact long back, but the disappointment is in the loss of even passenger traffic in the short and medium distance. If it’s not reversed, then there may not be any cure to the financial health of the Railways,” said the official.