Bhubaneswar, March 20: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday said Rs 36,480 crore is being pumped in to expand the rail network in Odisha to tap the state's vast tourism potential and abundant mineral and natural resources.
Launching around half-a-dozen projects at a function here, Prabhu said the Centre is focusing on strengthening the railway infrastructure and connectivity in Odisha to enable the state to chug on the path of development.
Noting that the state is endowed with a very long coastline, ports, mines and minerals, exotic tourist spots and pilgrim centres, the railway minister said huge investment is required to improve the rail connectivity substantially.
Therefore, with an emphasis on building a robust railway network in Odisha, the NDA government raised budgetary allocation for the rail sector in the state to Rs 1,465 crore in 2014-15, Rs 3,712 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 4,682 crore in 2016-17, showing substantial hike from Rs 812.5 crore allocated by the previous UPA regime, he said.
The allocation was further raised to Rs 5,102 crore in 2017-18 to put the state on the fast-track of progress, Prabhu said. Stating that the Rs 3.5 lakh crore investment is proposed by the railways, he said steps have already been taken for implementing a number of projects with an investment of Rs 36,480 crore in Odisha.
Besides expanding the railway network, the goal is to improve the railway stations and improve train services and facilities for the passengers, he added. Prabhu said the Odisha government was also extending cooperation for implementation of rail projects and the state has also entered into joint ventures with railways for the development of the sector.
He said the railways would also take steps for marketing of handicraft products and other items produced by tribal communities and women self help groups. Launching various projects during his visit, the rail minister inaugurated the extension of Khurda Road-Rajsunakhala passenger up to Bolagarh Road. While earlier this train was passing through Khorda town, Begunia and Rajsunakhala, it will now connect to Bolagarh.
Similarly, Prabhu inaugurated extension of Rourkela- Bhubaneswar Rajyarani Express up to Gunupur. He also laid the foundation stones for Khurda Road bypass line, fourth line between Rourkela and Bondamunda, Multi Disciplinary Training Centre at Jagatpur in Cuttack and maintenance facilities for Mainline Electric Multiple Unit units at Khurda Road.
Offering all cooperation for developing rail network in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the state's contribution of 50 per cent share of construction cost and free land for Khurda Road-Balangir and Jeypore-Nabarangpur and 25 per cent share of project cost for Jeypore-Malkangiri have made the projects viable.