| Nitish Kumar at the circular railway function. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Jan. 19: Railway minister Nitish Kumar today joined his colleagues in spreading the feel-good cheer, announcing that train fares would not be increased in the coming days and listing a slew of safety measures.
“The price of diesel has gone up and we require about 200 crore litres of diesel every year for running the trains. We have to pay additional charges for this. Still, we are not planning to increase passenger fares immediately,” he told reporters during a day’s visit to the city.
Inaugurating a seminar — Construction and Rehabilitation of Railway Track, Including Formation, Tunnels and Bridges — at the Science City auditorium this morning, he mentioned a host of safety measures that the railways are set to introduce.
“We have constituted a railway safety fund and for the purpose we have earmarked Rs 17,000 crore. The fund will be utilised to renovate about 8,500 kilometres of railway track. We have completed the renovation work of 8,000 kilometres and the remaining 500 kilometres will be completed by March,” he said.
The fund will also be utilised for repair and maintenance of 2,700 railway bridges and urgrade of signal systems in about 1,300 stations. “Passenger safety is another serious concern for us and we are determined to devote ourselves to the job,” he said.
Kumar will launch a national project to install anti-collision devices on 3,465 kilometres of track at a function at Kishanganj station of the Northeast Frontier Railway tomorrow.
In the division, the devices will be installed at 183 stations, 36 manned and 84 unmanned level crossings and on 1,280 locomotives and 190 guard vans. The project is slated to be completed in 2004-05.
More than 50 per cent railway collisions are caused by lapses on the part of locomotive drivers, who hold one of the most stressful jobs, necessitating technical aids to prevent collisions.
Developed by Konkan Railway Corporation, the device is designed to prevent various types of train collisions like head-on, side and rear-end collisions and those caused due to infringement by derailed vehicles on adjacent tracks.
Another cause for concern is the railway bridges, 44 per cent of which are a century old and need immediate repair. An expert committee has been set up for the job. Mobile bridge inspection units will also be constituted. The first two will come up this year and in future, all railway zones will have one such unit.
In the afternoon, Kumar, while kicking off a project to improve passenger amenities at the Sovabazar-Ahiritola circular railway station, assured contract labourers working at the station they some of them would be absorbed by the railways in the coming days.
The circular railway work between Princep Ghat and Majherhat will be completed by the end of this year, he announced.
Trinamul Congress MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, who has fallen foul of his party chief Mamata Banerjee, attended the function. In a veiled attack, he said: “A number of development projects were taken up during her (Mamata’s) tenure as the railway minister. But many of these projects are still lying incomplete.”