NEW DELHI: A whopping investment of USD 120 billion will be made in next five years in the cash-strapped railways which is in the process of upgradation and expansion, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Tuesday.
He highlighted the challenges faced by railways like ticketless travelling and bad condition of toilets in trains and sought innovative ideas from the youth to address these, with a promise of awards for best among them.
Addressing a gathering of students and alumni from IITs and other premier institutes like National Law University and London School of Economics, he said the railways is facing many challenges which need to be addressed.
Railways needs massive investment for upgradation and expansion of its network, Prabhu said.
"There has been no investment in the railways for the last 20-25 years... There will be an investment of USD 120 billion in the next five years to catch up with the backlog," he said.
Requiring huge resources, the government has already decided to allow FDI in certain segments of the railways, like coach manufacturing, station development, suburban rail and high speed network.
"We have big challenges and we have to address them. But the question is how to do it," the Railway Minister said.
He referred to the malaise of ticketless travelling in trains which is a major problem that causes substantial losses to the national transporter, mostly in local and suburban trains.
"Train ticket is cheaper than other modes of transport. So travelling without tickets cannot be accepted," he said.
Northern Railways topped the chart in 2013-14, with more than 1.9 million people traveling without tickets or with improper tickets.
"Ticketless travel can be curbed. How to do it? Can you find a fool-proof solution to it? These are the challenges and the young minds can be engaged in addressing them. These are the day to day problems and we need solutions," Prabhu said.
Aiming at engaging students of the elite institutes, he also sought innovative ideas for improvement in facilities in the public transporter.
"Can we have odourless toilets without using water or ensuring less usage of water because water shortage is a problem and Railways is one of the biggest consumers of water?," he said.
In order to encourage innovative solutions, Railways will announce awards for the best idea put forward, he said.
Railways will come out with a new website to promote technology solution in Rail services. "We will create a technology portal shortly," Prabhu said.