India has one of the highest densities of railway network in the world. Given the scale of functioning, the running of Indian Railways is nothing but a management feat. But the existing infrastructure requires continuous expansion, upgradation and technology introductions. This work has to be done continuously by every government.
Whether UPA 2 under Manmohan Singh or NDA under Narendra Modi government, the work is happening. But the question is- At what pace? You can’t crawl with the pace of a snail and expect the railways to function efficiently. Thus, it is pertinent to check the projects undertaken by UPA2 and NDA.
New Line Projects
This section tells us about the new lines commissioned by the Indian Railways in order to expand the railway network.
UPA sanctioned 54 new line projects covering a length of 5,431 Km while the NDA sanctioned 188 new line projects of 21,295 Km length and costing Rs 3.87 lakh crore.
The new lines sanctioned by NDA are thrice as much by UPA. Out of the lines sanctioned, NDA has commissioned 2,622 km length of lines with an expenditure of Rs 85,536 crore.
Gauge means the spacing between the two rails of the same railway track. If we want bigger trains to ply, it is necessary to convert meter gauges (one meter spacing) to broad gauges (1.4 meter).
UPA sanctioned 9-gauge conversion projects covering a length of 1,420 Km while the NDA sanctioned 55-gauge conversion projects of 7,275 Km length and costing Rs 56,135 crore. By March 2019, commissioning of 3,573 km length has been achieved with an expenditure of Rs 19,640 crore.
Doubling of Tracks
Doubling of tracks helps in managing the heavy railway traffic and starting new railway lines.
UPA sanctioned 108 doubling projects covering a length of 5,087 Km while the NDA sanctioned 255 doubling projects of 20,500 Km length and costing Rs 2.32 lakh crore. NDA managed to commission 2,784 km length by spending of Rs 48,342 crore.
Rather than using diesel engine, electric traction is a better option to ensure efficiency and sustainability. Railway electrification is a project running for decades and is yet not complete. India has about 65,000 km of railway lines.
A statement in Lok Sabha in 2009 tells us 44,331 km of lines are unelectrified, thus roughly 21,000 km lines were electrified when UPA 2 took charge in 2009. Similar statement in 2014 tells us the lines electrified were 23,541 km. Thus, in the five years of UPA 2, it could electrify barely 2,000 km of lines.
A statement in Lok Sabha in 2019 tells us that as on 1st April 2019 (i.e after 5 years of NDA 2), the lines electrified were 35,488 km. Thus, Narendra Modi led government managed to electrify 11,947 km of lines within five years.
If we take a bird’s eye view, we find that the works in railways under Modi government have increased and improved than the earlier UPA government. The money sanctioned as well as the extent of the work has also increased. Not to mention the reforms in railways, focus on safety, cleanliness of stations and introduction of new trains like Vande Bharat and Tejas, the Indian Railways is poised to become much more efficient, safe and accessible.