New Delhi, May 5 (UNI) Buoyed by the Railways' record profit of Rs 13,000 crore, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today set a staggering target of Rs 20,000 crore this year with a special emphasis on safety and upgradation of passenger amenities .
Unfolding the new targets at a two-day annual meeting of the Railway General Managers, which got under way at Rail Bhavan here this morning, a beaming Mr Prasad patted the officials and employees for the spectacular performance, which had turned the loss-making public sector enterprise into a cash-efficient, passenger-friendly entity.
Besides the target of Rs 20,000 crore profit, the Railway Minister also stressed the need for bringing down the operating ratio to 77 per cent from 83 per cent.
The Railways had generated a profit of Rs 13,000 crore, the second biggest after ONGC, leaving behind even the Reliance Group.
''We have to make the Indian Railways the Number one system in the world,'' he told the GMs, while warning against any complacency.
Sending out a strong message to all the 17 GMs, who are attending the meeting , Mr Prasad said they should make full use of the extended power to provide a rebate of up to 30 per cent in freight transportation in their respective zones.
''Last year 400 goods trains remained idle. I expect you to take full advantage of this power to ensure that this situation does not recur,'' he said, adding, ''A great deal of responsibility lies on you people for a timely execution of the rail projects.'' In this connection, he made a special mention of the dedicated freight corridors, which are expected to result in a quantum jump in the Railways' revenues.
''After the dedicated freight corridors become operational, the distance between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Kolkata will be covered in 18 hours as against five days at present,'' the minister said.
He also pointed out that the average speed of a goods train is 25 km per hour. On the dedicated freight corridors, goods trains will run at a speed on 90-100 km per hour.
''Work on the freight corridors is in full swing and we will urge the Prime Minister to dedicate these to the nation,'' he said.
The minister also asked the officials to put into practice the new system under which wagons fitted with air brakes had been allowed to run up to 4500 km without any testing.
''Since this system has not been effectively implemented, the Railways have experienced a shortage of goods trains,'' he pointed out.
In the passenger segment, Mr Prasad, who was flanked by Railway Board Chairman J P Batra and other Board members, told the GMs to take up on a priority basis the work of increasing the length of long-distance express and superfast trains to 24 coaches.
''This will require the lengthening of platforms where these trains have a halt,'' he said, adding that funds would not be a constraint for any of the projects announced in this year's Railway Budget.
The ministry has declared the current year as ''The Year of Passenger Service with a Smile''.
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.
Mr Prasad called for converting the existing meter gauge into broad gauge by 2010, saying it would provide better rail linkages in the country.
He also impressed upon the GMs to implement employees' welfare measures sincerely and assured that there would be no dearth of funds for the corporate welfare plans.
UNI SKS/NAZ SC VV1621