The work culture at Indian Railways has changed, and the state-run transporter’s focus has shifted to safety and infrastructure enhancement, said railway board chairman Ashwani Lohani.
Lohani called the road overbridge collapse in suburban Andheri on Tuesday morning, that left five people injured and two in critical condition, unfortunate.
"It was a sudden collapse and wasn't anticipated, said Lohani. "We have initiated enquiry against the bridge collapse. Infrastructure maintenance is being done in full swing. Lessons need to be learnt from such incidents."
After expressing his displeasure recently at a public event over railways punctuality dropping to 60 percent in May, Lohani said he is happy with the recent figure of 71 percent.
"Punctuality has been affected due to safety works on tracks. Punctuality situation will improve in 4-5 years once safety work is completed on some sections," explained Lohani.
However, he said that problems on Northern to Eastern stretch of railway tracks will remain till new tracks and lines are added.
On operating ratio:
In the last 17 years, 2018 is going to be railways worst year in terms of operating ratio as it is expected to be 98.4 percent. Responding to CNBC-TV18's query on whether the mechanism to calculate the operating ratio will be changed, Lohani said no such proposal is on the anvil and the operating ratio will improve by the end of this fiscal.
On criticism regarding Bullet Train Project:
A day after metro man E Sreedharan said Bullet Train is an expensive deal and will cater only to the elite in his interview with an English daily, the chairman said railways cannot stop working on modern ideas.
"Railways needs to look at growth along with its consolidation drive. High Speed Rail marks a paradigm shift in how people will travel and it is not at the cost of existing work being done at railways," said Lohani.
CNBC-TV18 reported about the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd's (NHSRCL) new strategy to get land for the ambitious bullet train project amidst protests.
NHSRCL is looking at making compensation mechanism public to land owners for the first time. This will help in ensuring transparency and making land owners and farmers aware of the monetary break up for the land and adjoining areas they sell to the railways for this project.
On new rakes for coal supply:
Amidst uproar by Delhi government regarding lesser rakes to meet with the national capital's coal demand, Lohani said Indian Railways has provided 10 percent more rakes this quarter compared to first quarter of 2017. "Its an outstanding number. There is a hike in rakes for coal supply... I dont think there is a shortage," he said.
On Dedicated Freight Corridors:
The much-awaited dedicated freight corridors on the Eastern and Western routes now have a new deadline - March 2020. The railways was looking at making the two corridors operational by 2019 end. But administrative issues have made the transporter extend its deadline.
"We are trying to resolve all administrative issues. We aim to add about 120 million tonnes of new freight traffic in Eastern & Western DFCs. While few existing freight trains will be transferred to the new lines.. we will be creating a new market for freight to garner more revenue," said Lohani.
Union railway minister Piyush Goyal recently made a statement that India requires more than a lakh wagons in next 5-6 years. He urged the industry to gear up on the production of wagons.
Chairman Lohani informed that railways has an order of 12,000 wagons from existing players at present. "We have received 700 wagons so far and expect to receive 800 wagons in July. We have recently come out with a revised policy in which we have allowed a fair rate of return on wagon procurement. The earlier rate of return was much lower," said Lohani.
He added that railways will float tenders for its largest order of 22,000 wagons from July 16 onwards.
Indian railways is permitting private investment in general-purpose wagons as per its revised policy. Railway minister had said at a recent event that this will help customers deal with the wagon shortage situation and get them a 10% rebate on base freight for 15 years.Apart from these issues, Lohani elaborated on how railways will be holding discussions across zones regarding ethics and integrity from June 27. These discussions will be held as classes by professors from International Centre for Governance. This will be part of the whistleblower drive initiated by Lohani to curb corrupt practices.