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20th April 2024 (18 Topics)

Railways: On track for major overhaul but with speed limits


The Indian Railways, as the country's largest national transport network, has long been a focal point for policymakers aiming to enhance its efficiency and modernize its infrastructure.

1: Dimension- Challenges in Enhancing Efficiency
  • Human Resource Complexity: The Indian Railways is a significant employer, making it challenging for governments to implement changes swiftly due to the complexities associated with managing a large workforce. Dealing with human resource issues, such as training and deployment, poses a substantial challenge to railway modernization efforts.
  • Safety Concerns: Despite advancements, safety remains a concern, especially regarding the implementation of systems like the Kavach anti-collision system and combating driver fatigue. Safety measures are crucial for preventing accidents and ensuring passenger and employee well-being.
  • Infrastructure Complexities: The complexity of railway infrastructure poses hindrances to the seamless implementation of safety measures and technological upgrades. Upgrading existing infrastructure while ensuring minimal disruption to services is a daunting task.
2: Dimension- Progress and Achievements
  • Vande Bharat Trains: The Vande Bharat trains, symbolizing a generational shift in Indian railways, offer high-speed point-to-point services with amenities akin to airlines, showcasing India's manufacturing capabilities. This initiative reflects the government's commitment to enhancing passenger experience and reducing travel time.
  • Expansion of High-Speed Train Corridors: Efforts are underway to construct more high-speed train corridors, including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, aimed at enhancing connectivity and reducing travel time. These initiatives are crucial for meeting the growing demands of passengers and freight transport.
  • Capital Outlays and Infrastructure Development: The Modi government's emphasis on capital outlay, including the highest-ever investments in railways, has led to significant advancements in track laying, electrification, maintenance, and infrastructure development. These investments are vital for modernizing railway infrastructure and improving operational efficiency.
3: Dimension- Future Strategies and Challenges
  • Focus on Electrification: With a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030, railway electrification projects have been expedited, leading to a substantial increase in electrified route kilometers and a significant reduction in carbon footprint. However, challenges such as funding and technical hurdles need to be addressed to achieve the ambitious electrification goals.
  • Modernization Initiatives: The station modernization program, including the Amrit Bharat station scheme, aims to revamp over 1,300 stations, enhancing passenger experience and infrastructure. While these initiatives are commendable, ensuring timely completion and quality execution remains a challenge.
  • Freight and Passenger Service Balancing: While freight services remain a significant revenue source, efforts are needed to balance freight and passenger services efficiently, ensuring optimal utilization of railway infrastructure. This requires strategic planning and investment in infrastructure to accommodate both passenger and freight traffic effectively.

Mains Practice Question

Q: "Indian Railways stands at the crossroads of modernization, balancing speed with safety." Discuss.


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