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Railways' version of golden quadrilateral project

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

The railway ministry is likely to announce its own version of a golden quadrilateral project in the Budget this year.

The project envisages connecting the four metros with an additional line to augment the rail network on the high density corridors. Nitish Kumar and his team feel that with the completion of the National Highway Development Project that will connect all major commercial centres in the country by 2007, the road sector will pose an even bigger threat for the railways.

Accordingly, the ministry has mooted the proposal to develop its own version of the golden quadrilateral project that will involve a simultaneous growth in rail infrastructure on the high density networks.

In line with the railway ministry's decision to obtain Cabinet sanction for any new project, the ministry has also obtained the necessary Cabinet approval for the same.

In any case, sources said the ministry already has a large shelf of existing projects along the sides and diagonals of the ongoing golden quadrilateral project in the road sector, which the ministry now needs to revive for completion on a time bound manner.

In recent years, the railways share in total freight traffic has slipped to less than 40 per cent, while the share of the roads has increased to 60 per cent.

Moreover, the freight composition of the rail traffic is heavily dependent on bulk traffic averaging 96 per cent of its total traffic loading of about 490 million tonnes in the current fiscal.

According to sources if no steps are taken to encourage value added goods traffic to use railways there is no way for the railways to correct their fiscal mess.

The golden quadrilateral plan of the railways seeks to do just that by augmenting the rail capacity on the high density networks, which are currently operating at saturation levels, despite a broad gauge double line connectivity between these four stations.

While announcing the project the minister is however not expected to pitch for completion of the project within a year, though the ministry is of the opinion that these investments should not be stretched too thin, as that would drag out the projects over too many years.

For the government such a mammoth public investment makes sense as that is expected to revive interest among financial institutions to finance these projects.

Besides an internal assessment done by the ministry shows that the Railways are even facing the prospect of declining passenger shares in trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express as the motorways in some parts of the country are getting better.

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