ACCORDING to Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, the Railways have a plan to electrify more than 80 per cent of broad gauge lines across the country in five years. Electrification will reduce pollution. A considerable length of the Konkan Railway route is also going to be electrified and double tracked. This will help in running the trains at faster speed and cutting the travel time of passengers. Faster tracks do not only help people travel faster from one place to another; they also make goods transportation quicker, which is very essential in an atmosphere where producers, suppliers and consumers are being brought on faster platforms. Under the prevalent conditions, with only one track along much of the Konkan route, a considerable time is wasted in allowing faster trains to cross first, which could a thing of the past if the KR authorities lay additional track and increase the speed of trains.
Thanks to the far-sightedness shown by the Konkan Railways Corporation when the land was acquired initially for laying the KR track lines, they would not have trouble in acquiring land for laying additional track on the route as they have adequate land. The KR authorities have ruled out possibility of land becoming a problem for doubling of tracks in Goa. Though the KR route is laid to facilitate speed of trains up to 150 kmph, the highest speed that is attained on the route is 120 kmph. The authorities should explore the possibility of raising train speed on the route and cut the travelling time; but at the same time they have to ensure that safety was not compromised. Fast rail transportation would help the Balli container depot, which is under construction, which will go a long way in promoting exports from the state with formalities including Customs being completed here.
The KRC has over the years turned around and became financially stable from the second year of its operation, something which is normally not seen in government enterprises. Better financial position has helped KRC authorities to plan for increasing the capacity of the Konkan Railway, which includes doubling of the first 46 km of the KR track, electrification (which is a very promising project as it would give returns very quickly) and capacity doubling project. The electrification project is expected to start in two-three months and be completed in two years. Timely, efficient implementation of these projects would help the Konkan Railway Corporation to not only increase its capacity but also to double its income, which will help it offset whatever remains to be repaid. Doubling of tracks will also help the railways to not only double the capacity of train movement but also to increase it up to four times. It will also increase the movement of freight trains, which in turn will help the KRC earn more revenue, which could be used for not only repaying the loans but also providing better facilities to the passengers. With the traffic increasing year after year the government should not wait for a chaotic situation to arrive and invest in the railway lines for smoother movement of trains and safety of the passengers. Since the KR route was laid almost 25 years ago, it will start ‘decaying’ in the course of time and it should be endeavour of the authorities to ensure that the replacement was done to prevent mishaps from taking place.
While the railway authorities work towards making rail travel faster and safer, they need to introduce more technology to reduce chances of mishaps. Hundreds of people die in accidents or are run over by trains while crossing rail tracks. This could be prevented by having automatic barriers at the cross lines and also by erecting fencing along the rail tracks.
Besides, the upkeep of railway stations is poor, though crores of rupees are spent for the purpose. Even the newly renovated stations are turned into old rickety stables due to the failure of the authorities to maintain it properly. Hardly is any person who litters platforms and other parts of the railway stations ever penalized. That encourages people to damage and litter the railway property at the stations. However, the Railways and railway employees are no less to blame for the poor maintenance. Often the funds for renovation and repairs are sanctioned after a long delay. The employees responsible for repairs and maintenance do not do their jobs properly. The Railways can think of attaining global cleanliness and safety standards only if they can take action against their officials for delay in sanctioning funds and poor maintenance together with action against those who damage or litter railway properties.