How Vande Bharat Initiative Taking Center Stage in Budget 2024
How Vande Bharat Initiative Taking Center Stage in Budget 2024

In a significant move aimed at bolstering connectivity and modernizing infrastructure, the Indian Railways is poised for a substantial upgrade to Vande Bharat standards as part of the Budget 2024 initiatives. The emphasis lies on enhancing efficiency, easing congestion, and facilitating faster freight movement along crucial energy, cement, and port connectivity routes.

Presenting the interim budget for the fiscal year 2025, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled a record allocation of Rs 2.55 lakh crore for the national transporter, marking a notable increase of 5.8% from the previous fiscal year's budget. This surpasses the earlier record of Rs 2.41 lakh crore allocated in the FY24 budget, with revised estimates for the ongoing fiscal standing at Rs 2.43 lakh crore.

Highlighting key priorities, Sitharaman outlined plans for implementing three major economic railway corridor projects in the upcoming fiscal year. These corridors, focusing on energy, mineral, and cement routes, port connectivity, and high traffic density corridors, are identified under the PM Gati Shakti initiative to enhance multi-modal connectivity, improve logistics efficiency, and reduce costs.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw emphasized that these corridors encompass 434 projects amounting to Rs 11 lakh crore investment. With a vision to deploy 40,000 kilometers of tracks over the next 6-8 years, these projects aim to decongest high-traffic corridors, enhance passenger train services, and accelerate GDP growth while reducing logistic costs.

Reacting to the budget announcement, Olivier Loison, Managing Director at Alstom India, lauded the move for strengthening the efficiency, reliability, and safety of the railway network, particularly for passenger trains.

A key aspect of the upgrade involves the conversion of 40,000 normal rail bogies (coaches) to Vande Bharat standards, promising improved safety, convenience, and comfort for passengers. K. B. L. Wadhwa, a retired director at the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), highlighted the superiority of Vande Bharat bogies with their advanced design, higher speed, and enhanced comfort.

Vaishnaw affirmed that all existing coaches would undergo upgrades to ensure better facilities, with an estimated cost of Rs 15,200 crore over the next five years.

The interim budget has allocated Rs 41,086.09 crore towards purchasing rolling stock, including engines, wagons, and coaches for the upcoming fiscal year.

Estimates for FY25 indicate a significant increase in the Indian Railways' wage bill to Rs 1.17 lakh crore, reflecting an 11.77% rise from budgetary estimates in fiscal 2023-24. Meanwhile, expenditure on diesel for trains is expected to decrease by 25.24% to Rs 10,735.31 crore, underscoring the shift towards track electrification.

Despite challenges, the projections anticipate stable goods earnings at Rs 1.74 lakh crore, while passenger earnings are forecasted to rise to Rs 80,000 crore in the upcoming fiscal year, reflecting optimism for the Indian Railways' growth trajectory.

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