Lalu vows infrastructural turnaround of Railways

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New Delhi, Dec 1 (UNI) Asserting that Railways has to step up infrastructure projects if it has to sustain its position as the national carrier, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad today announced that the works on the Eastern and Western Freight Corridors would be implemented with or without support from Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

Replying to the debate on the Appropriation (Railways) Bill 2007, the Railways Minister said these freight corridors together costing Rs 29,000 crores were promised help by a former Japanese Prime Minister during his visit to India.

''We don't know the status of assurance since he is no longer the Prime Minister of that country but I promise to the House that the country would take up this landmark infrastructure project, connecting Ludhiana to Haldia and Mumbai with Delhi at all costs be it from internal resources generation or by approaching World Bank or such financial institutions,'' Mr Prasad said.

The corridor will have fully electrified double line dedicated to moving goods, minerals and other freight.

Stating that the Railways would have a futuristic approach keeping in view the needs of 110 crore people of the country for the next 30-50 years.

He said Railways had changed the image of the country as the national transporter by generating Rs 20,000 crores of surplus funds and raising many an ''eyebrow of many friends, foes and economists around the globe''.

The days of Railways bending backwards in the Finance Ministry cringing for funds were no longer there and the Railways had increased its dividend from 6.5 per cent to seven per cent for the Government investments in the national transporter.

The 14 lakh railway employees were being given bonus for 70 days in recognition of their hard work.

The Minister said there had been very little progress in adding new rail tracks which stood at 57,000 km when the country gained independence and stood at 67,000 km today.

He said there had been neglect of goods traffic movement because of congestion of rail traffic to make way for the Rajdhanis and passenger trains. These ''earning horses'' (kamai ghoda) have been given right priority resulting in the Railways doing a turn around and earning a surplus, which was not just claimed ''in papers but confirmed by the Reserve Bank of India''.

Mr Prasad said even today 60 per cent of the goods transport was carried out by road causing numerous accidents and the Railways would make efforts to reverse this trend by improving infrastructure.

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