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Mr Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu
Honourable Union Minister for Railways Ministry of Railways



  • The railways have, undoubtedly, emerged as a key focus area for the new government. The government promises to transform Indian Railways (IR) through four key strategies: capacity expansion and modernisation of infrastructure, improving customer experience, focusing on safety, and achieving financial self-sustainability.

  • Capacity expansion on rail networks is important for IR to regain its market share in freight transport, which it has lost to the road sector over the years. Improving the speed of trains and increasing the carrying capacity is also critical.

  • Customer comfort and convenience has also been designated as one of the top priorities. Some of the areas that need attention are ticketing, cleanliness, catering, passenger amenities and tourism.

  • Safety in terms of infrastructure and technology is important. Significant investments are required for modernisation of track structure and installation of new signalling technology.

  • Recently, the government has begun to focus on timely completion of the DFC. It is also taking steps to develop northeast rail connectivity, improve last mile connectivity, expand rolling stock, and improve energy efficiency in the railway system.

  • High-speed rail (HSR) development is another priority of the government. While most experts think it is too expensive to implement HSR corridors, the government is going ahead with pre-feasibility studies.

  • The government is also trying to involve the private sector in the redevelopment or modernisation of station infrastructure. The recent cabinet approval for the modernisation of 400 railway stations through open bids is expected to provide a boost..

  • However, all of this will require a substantial increase in investments in the railways, for which IR has to improve its finances. The government has announced an investment requirement of Rs 8,500 billion in the sector over the next five years. Internal resource generation will not be sufficient to fund this scale of investments; alternative funding sources will be required. IR will need to partner with state governments, PSUs, and multilateral/ bilateral organisations for some of the projects

  • The private sector can also play an important role in this regard. The government has identified about 26 projects worth Rs 905 billion to be commissioned through PPPs. It has also approved three “investor-friendly” model concession agreements (MCAs) for private participation. The approval of 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector is expected to open up investment opportunities.

  • There are other changes required as well. The Debroy committee report on the restructuring of IR has called for improving accountability, decentralising power and setting up an independent regulator over the next few years.

  • That said, the industry can expect new business opportunities going forward, particularly in light of the recent Make in India initiative. The “big ticket” manufacturing ideas for the sector include high horse power, green technology locomotives, commodity-specific wagons like auto carriers, signalling systems, train protection systems, and track laying and track maintenance machines, among others.
  • The mission of this conference is to highlight the new and emerging opportunities in the Indian railways sector, examine the key challenges, and discuss the appropriate strategies. The conference will also showcase noteworthy initiatives/projects and the most promising technologies/solutions.

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