Indian Railways is the fourth-largest rail network in the world, with a track length of 115,000 km and around 8,500 railway stations carrying an average of 26 million passengers a day, and over 1.2 billion tonnes of freight in 2017-18.
The mammoth 166-year-old Indian Railways has begun to make some revolutionary changes in its operating capacity and its vision for the future. An ambitious modernisation exercise that began under the former Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has accelerated under Piyush Goyal. Although not much is visible yet, station redevelopment, private trains, high-speed train corridors and several other initiatives are underway already. Improving customer experience, additional streams of revenue, private participation, seamless connectivity, freight movement, etc., are part of the revised action plan.
In an important insight, Sanjeev Kumar Lohia, Managing Director, Indian Railway Stations Redevelopment Corp. Ltd (IRSDCL) shares with INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY information about the special purpose vehicle's proposal to raise funds for the world's largest exercise in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) through the collection of a user development charge on tickets at redeveloped stations.
Overall, our cover story on Indian Railways examines how the execution of long-overdue projects such as station redevelopment, dedicated freight corridors and high-speed rail could lead to a revival in the fortunes of the humongous public sector company. However, the reports of Maharashtra's contribution of Rs 50 billion to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor of the bullet train project being diverted to fund populist schemes in the name of farmers' welfare will not only derail the project and an important development scheme but will also send out a very wrong signal to international investors.
We also look at the roads & highways sector and whether there could be a slowdown in road building on account of issues such as land acquisition and funding. RK Pandey, Member Projects, NHAI, reveals to INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY about the agency's proposal to offer bonds to those affected by such projects as additional compensation. India's refusal to sign the RCEP agreement has, among others, been widely hailed by the country's steelmakers. The story on the sector attempts to understand how it is foraying into new market segments to consolidate its position as a global leader. The delinquency issue at power distribution companies or as they are referred to in India, discoms, continues to undermine attempts to infuse dynamism in the sector. We only hope that the new framework for reforms proposed by RK Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy suitably addresses this aspect.
As per a new report by CARE Ratings, though the Indian economy grew at a decent 7.5 per cent from 2015-19, the jobs market has expanded at a measly CAGR of 3.3 per cent. This is something that India can ill afford and, therefore, it is an area that requires the policymakers' urgent attention. In an extensive interview with us, Anil Chaudhry, Managing Director & Zone President, Schneider Electric, underlines how in these very disruptive times of Industry 4.0 new openings in the jobs market will be generated by new-age startups and digital businesses and the imperative of preparing the workforce of the future for skills required by the emerging new economy.
Chaudhry also elaborates on how data can be leveraged as an asset through effective analytics to fast track infrastructure creation as well as development.
Another one of the Modi government's ambitious public projects is the provision of safe drinking water for all citizens by 2024 under Har Ghar Jal or "Water for All" scheme. In an interesting and insightful conversation with Infrastructure Today, Saravanan Panneer Selvam, Sales Director, Grundfos Pumps India, emphasises on further enhancing coordination between different government departments and agencies to turn the dream into reality.