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  • The current government has set out the objectives for Indian Railways (IR) - financially self-sustainable, technologically advanced and customerfriendly. Its focus is not solely on capacity creation. Equal emphasis is being laid on modernisation, digitalisation, ease of doing business, safety and reliability, rationalisation of freight rates, and energy efficiency.

  • The efforts have begun to show some positive results, though there is a long way to go. In 2016-17, IR had a capital expenditure of Rs 1.1 trillion, almost three times the average of the period 2009-14. The pace of capacity creation in terms of broad gauge lines and electrification almost doubled during the same period. There was also greater progress on the Dedicated Freight Corridor project.

  • Station redevelopment contracts were awarded for Habibganj and Gandhinagar, and more than 25 stations are under bidding. Indiaís fastest train (160 kmph), Gatimaan Express, was introduced. Further, Rs 170 billion was sanctioned to develop the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata sections as semihigh speed corridors. Moreover, IRís electricity expenses declined by Rs 13 billion in 2015-16.

  • In what could be termed as one of the biggest and long-awaited structural reforms in the sector, the cabinet approved the setting up of an independent regulator, the Rail Development Authority, to recommend passenger and freight fares and set service-level benchmarks.

  • There are, however, a number of issues and concerns. Traffic growth has been almost been flat. In 2016-17, the year-on-year growth in freight and passenger traffic was less than 1 per cent. During the first quarter (April-June) of 2017-18, the growth in freight and passenger traffic stood at 3.74 per cent and 2.34 per cent respectively.

  • Private investment has been slow to flow in amid uncertainty over the bankability of projects. The railways are also losing market share in the freight and passenger business to other modes of transport such as roads and air. Capacity addition has not kept pace with the growth in traffic.

  • Safety and security are other major concerns. Technology upgradation in the areas of tracks, bridges, signalling and telecommunications, etc. is limited. Improving the speed of trains and increasing the carrying capacity are also critical. A lot more needs to be done in terms of providing endto- end integrated value-added services through the setting up of logistics parks, freight terminals, etc.

  • The mission of this conference is to highlight the recent initiatives of IR, examine the new opportunities and discuss key issues and concerns. The conference will also showcase noteworthy projects, technologies and best practices.
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