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Railway GMs meeting to review development projects

By Staff
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New Delhi, May 3 : The slew of ambitious proposals announced by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in this year's budget, including introduction of new trains and setting up of budget hotels and model stations, will come in for a review at the annual two-day meeting of General Managers of Indian Railways, beginning May 5.

To be attended by all the 17 General Managers and Railway Board Chairman J P Batra, the meeting would be presided over by Mr Prasad, who is credited with turning the transport behemoth into a cash-efficient, passenger-friendly entity.

''It is going to be a brainstorming session for the top Railway mandarins where the entire gamut of existing schemes as well as the proposals in the Railway Budget, 2006-07, will be thorougly debated as a prelude to chalking out measures for their implementation and timely completion,'' Railway Ministry sources told UNI.

Also on the agenda are the measures that will bolster the revenues of the railways, the biggest public sector enterprise in the country.

Faced with a tough competition from the surface transport in freight transportation and from low budget airlines in the upscale passenger segment, the Railways has announced a number of spectacular measures to retrieve the lost ground.

Earlier, the Railway Board had held a high-level meeting with the Divisional Railway Managers on modernisation and refurbishing of railway stations and platforms across the country and upgrading the amenities for travelling passengers.

The ministry has already declared the current year as ''The Year of Passenger Service with a Smile''.

The sources said the meeting would take stock of various proposals and also devise ways and means for the speedy implementation of those involving public-private partnership.

In his budget proposals, the Railway Minister had announced introduction of new trains, improving speed of important trains, setting up dedicated freight corridors, budget hotels and transforming 400 stations into ''Model stations''.

Setting a target of Rs 20,000 crore as fund surplus for the Railways during the current fiscal as against Rs 11,000 crore last year, Mr Prasad is pinning high hopes on the dedicated freight corridor for shoring the revenues. ''Efforts to expedite work on the freight corridor will come up for a discussion. Also, the Railways has become ''a soft target'' for Naxal attacks in recent times,'' the sources said, adding that security measures to strengthen rail security would form part of the agenda.

Taking a cue from a move to modernise airports in India, the Railway Ministry has already directed its Divisional Managers to select at least five stations each for upgradation within the next six months.

Mr Batra gave this direction to all 67 Divisional Managers, who met here recently to prepare an action plan for implementation of the Rail Budget propsals.

With the latest directive, at least 400 railway stations would be modernised and equipped by the end of this year with facilities like ATMs, Cyber Cafes, ticket reservation through SMS, better electronic signages and public address systems.

New Delhi Railway station is one of 60 stations selected for upgradation and is expected to be modernised much ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

''Progress on the works in this area will be taken up in a big way,'' the sources pointed out.

Sale of tickets through ATMs has already on an experimental basis at Bangalore station. ''The GMs will discuss measures to replicate this passenger-friendly measure in their respective zones.''

UNI

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