NEW DELHI: The country’s largest public transporter is reviewing the status of 171 projects, mostly starting new lines, worth over Rs 1.5 lakh crore as they have not taken off in over a decade. Majority of these projects were announced by former rail ministers- Lalu Yadav and Mamata Banerjee - in their rail budgets.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal during a review of pending projects has directed the Railway Board to decide the fate of these projects for they have become a financial burden on cash-strapped railways. In total, 491 projects – new line, gauge conversion and doubling of tracks – worth Rs 4 lakh crore are pending.
According to railway officials, most of these projects were announced by former railway ministers out of social obligations and did not have financial viability with a negative rate of returns in 90 percent of projects. In the majority of these projects, states have even failed to facilitate the transfer of land to railways.
“These projects have been categorised as dead projects with no progress and no financial viability to railways. We are in process of reviewing these projects and a decision will be taken at highest level in the railways,” said a senior railway ministry official.
An order to this regards has been issued by Railway Board.
“Projects, where local support/state support is not forthcoming resulting in poor/nil progress as well as old projects that have not made any headway or projects that are unlikely to give any tangible benefits to the Railways, would need to be continuously reviewed. Such reviews may be carried out in structured quarterly meetings to be convened by the General Managers,” said the order issued by railway on October 30.
Of the total 171 projects -- 40 sanctioned during Lalu Yadav tenure as rail minister from 2005-09 and 70 by Mamata Banerjee from 2009-11. Before 2009 Lok Sabha, Lalu Yadav announced 11 rail projects for Bihar in 2008-09 Rail Budget and the physical progress in all these projects is zero.
While the railway officials are busy reviewing these projects, it will be a political call that will decide the fate of these projects.
“As per norms, budgetary allocation has to be made for each of these projects every year. If these projects are dropped then money allotted for them can be diverted to profitable and viable projects. But these can’t be deleted by railways as they were part of budget and passed in parliament and withdrawal has to happen after approval from parliament,” the official added.