NEW DELHI (TIP): On the back of two train accidents within a month of Modi government taking charge, railway minister Sadanand Gowda is likely to announce a slew of measures in his July 8 budget to enhance passenger safety. The may include installing indigenous Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) on more routes to enable safe running of more trains on the same track even under low visibility. As railways are facing a huge fund crunch, the plan support for the staterun transporter for special projects, can see a significant hike in the budget. An official said the budget may propose to set up a dedicated safety fund. The fund is likely to be created by imposition of a safety cess on fares.

The budget is also expected to provide clarity on foreign direct investment in the sector as the BJP government has hinted at allowing 100% FDI in railway infrastructure (including high speed tracks, dedicated freight corridors and station development). Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s footsteps, Gowda is also pushing to make the railways go green. The budget is expected to announce projects related to harnessing solar energy and development of offshore wind energy, including those related to use of solar energy to power local trains and use of innovative technology to run AC coaches.

The focus is expected to be on electrification of around 2000 km of tracks, considering that the railways have almost 38% (24,800 km) of its network electrified, carrying almost 67% of the freight traffic and 51% of the passenger traffic. The budget is likely to have many sops for northeast region, another priority area for the Modi government.

The railways would announce to expedite the construction of 14 strategic projects — mainly in border areas — that are struck for environment clearance and paucity of funds. These projects involve laying down of 2,888 km of railway tracks in Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Punjab. The budget could allocate more funds for faster execution of dedicated freight corridor to ensure speedier transportation of goods in important routes.

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