Aarti Kapur, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 18. The Indian Railways will have a new face in the near future with Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal conceptualising a number of innovative plans for its expansion and renovation.
Interacting with The Tribune, Bansal said the country would require 33,000 more railway coaches over the next five years. The present number was 51,000.
To meet the demand, the ministry was planning to set up more rail coach factories in the country. He said the Haryana Government had recently offered land in the state to set up a coach factory and the railway officials were evaluating the feasibilities of the area proposed by the state.
Passengers’ safety was on top of the agenda and the railways planned to spend Rs 1.10 lakh crore on improving their safety in the next five years, the minister added.
A proposal to set up a railway Information Technology unit in Chandigarh was also in the pipeline. The railways had around 700 acres at its disposal in the city.
He said officials were working on the possibility of installing railway signal link and anti-collision devices here.
On improving the standard of food being served in trains, Bansal said they proposed to set up mini pantries in coaches. These pantries will have the provision for refrigeration and microwave oven to preserve and serve hot food.
In a bid to improve the quality of food, the ministry had chalked out a plan to set up state-of-the-art base kitchens at stations. The railways would allocate land to contractors to set up the kitchens, from where food would be served to the commuters in trains.
He said the railways was unable to provide mineral water bottles in all trains since only 6.50 lakh bottles were being supplied to it per day as against the requirement of 28 lakh bottles.
This problem would be resolved with the setting up of base kitchens at railway stations, the minister said.
Bansal said to reduce rail accidents on unmanned railway crossings, the ministry proposed to construct overpasses, for which 10 states had already given their concurrence to share 50 per cent of the construction cost.
He said there were 32,000 level crossings in the country, of which 18,000 were manned and 14,000 unmanned.
The ministry had recently mooted a proposal to permit the construction of overpasses at level crossings after conducting a survey of rail traffic on such sections. The ministry and the state would bear 50 per cent of the construction cost.
Bansal said instructions had been issued to all states seeking new tracks in their area to share the construction cost of the tracks besides providing land for the same.