No hike in rail fares in name of station revamp: Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw
Image Source : PTI Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

There has been no hike in fares in the name of station redevelopment project, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the revamp of 508 stations across the country. Vaishnaw said about Rs 25,000 crore needed for the redevelopment project will be allocated through the current Budget and asserted that the project is aimed at facilitating seamless travel for passengers across all strata of society.

“PM Modi is working to elevate the lives of the common people. The aim of station redevelopment is the same. We want them to have world-class stations without any burden. We have not increased fare or fixed a fee in the name of station redevelopment,” said Vaishnaw at a press conference here.

The Railways has envisaged a plan to redevelop almost 1,300 prime stations in the country as ‘Amrit Bharat Stations’. On Sunday, Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for 508 Amrit Bharat Stations. In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, 55 each such stations will be developed at the cost of about Rs 4,000 crore, 34 stations in Madhya Pradesh at approx Rs 1,000 crore, and 44 in Maharashtra at 1,500 crore. Besides, several railway stations in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, among others, will be redeveloped.

Vaishnaw said the Railways is training around 9,000 engineers to be part of the station redevelopment project to abreast them of the nitty-gritty of the project which includes analysis of contract documents, architecture, design, and safety. “There has been no discrimination against any state for this project. Over the next two years, we will be able to see substantial progress in the work. We believe in equitable development. Modiji has always said that we will lay the foundation stone of the project and we will inaugurate it too, explaining the speed at which we need to complete the project,” he said.

Answering a question on long-pending projects like the Sabarimala Rail in Kerala, the railways minister said it was a special case as the state government has very little interest in development. “The Kerala government does not have that much interest in the development of the state. That is why even for small things like surveys or preparing detailed project reports we find so much resistance that it’s really difficult to do any work. Even then the Centre is committed to the development of the rail network in Kerala.

“I will give you one example…the political class of Kerala created a totally imaginary narrative that the Vande Bharat train will not be given to the state. But you see Vande Bharat has been given to every state which has an electrified broad gauge network. We believe that the entire country should grow simultaneously but we need the support of state governments,” he said.

Earlier, while speaking after the foundation laying ceremony, Prime Minister Modi said that in the last nine years, the length of rail tracks laid in the country is more than the combined railway network in South Africa, Ukraine, Poland, the UK and Sweden. Modi further said that in the last year alone, India laid more railway tracks than the combined railway network of South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

“Our government has also given priority to the expansion of railways in the northeast. Doubling of railway lines, gauge conversion, electrification, and construction of new routes are being done at a fast pace. Soon, all state capitals of the northeast will be connected by rail network. “The second railway station has been built in Nagaland after 100 years. The commissioning of new rail lines in the northeast is also happening three times more than before,” he said.

Today, Modi said, the government is working to make the rail journey accessible as well as pleasant. “The effort is to provide the best possible experience while on a train or at a station,” he added. He also mentioned better seating arrangements at platforms, upgraded waiting rooms and free Wi-Fi at thousands of stations.

The prime minister said that modernisation of so many stations will create a new atmosphere for development in the country as they will create a good first impression among the visitors. “Upgraded stations will not only increase tourism but will also give a push to economic activities in the nearby areas,” the PM said, adding that the number of unmanned level crossings on large lines is now down to zero.

Pointing out the difficulties faced due to the lack of railway bridges, the prime minister said that there were “less than 6,000 rail overbridges and underbridges before 2014, but today, that number has gone beyond 10,000”. Speaking about the convenience for passengers, the prime minister underlined that special emphasis is being laid on the needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities.

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