Reactions to Railway Budget 2010 of
Mr. Akhileshwar Sahay
President, Transportation Division, Feedback Ventures
The Railway Budget in the Election Year of West Bengal was expected to flow from the Vision Document 2020. But the double whammy of railways emerging champion of social viability and the need of populism with an eye on the West Bengal Assembly elections, have left the budget very high on intent but low on delivery.
Distributing goodies to passengers for the seventh year in a row does militate against the common sense, in light of ever increasing input cost. More and more passenger trains on a clogged network, which has kept average speed of Express trains to 55-60 km and that of goods trains to 25 kilometers since decades is expressive of business as usual approach and it does gives credence to the postulate of Indian Railways stuck in the muddle of the middle.
The Vision Document had laudable goals and this budget being the first budget since vision, should have clearly come out with an actionable strategy for completing the 25000 km new line in ten year period, a focused approach on a game changer strategy to take on the competition from highways, by developing core competency to handle diversified traffic (going beyond the tradition commoditized bulk basket) and a clear path for organizational transformation.
There are redeeming features in an other wise pedestrian budget- more important of them being a task force based approach to approve private investment in railways within 100 days but here also railways needed to spell out the exact way of private investment which is needed to be far more robust as compared to the 2008 policy on private investments. There are few more laudable intents like setting up of High Speed Rail Authority after a painful wait and eradicating the 17000 death traps known as unmanned level crossings. The budget is not clear as to how the PPP projects, which have not taken off the ground in past 4 years, are going to be expedited. Railway Minister has shied away from providing a transformation execution road map and has skirted the issue of how she is going to fund massive infrastructure creation agenda.