Indian Railways is working on a proposal to create a mega fund by the name Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) with a corpus of more than Rs 1.1 lakh crore that will be used to implement its drive to upgrade the creaking rail infrastructure.
The rail ministry has set up a six-member committee headed by the executive director of the planning directorate to prepare a blueprint for the scheme, including sources of the fund and areas in which it will be utilised.
“The idea is to seek a bulk of this fund from the finance ministry which will be channelized for multiple projects. This includes around Rs 40,000 crore for elimination of unmanned level crossings and replacing the old signalling and telecom infrastructure which are responsible for more than a half of train accidents,” a senior railway board official told Business Standard, on condition of anonymity.
The committee has sought inputs on fund requirements from different directorates – mechanical, electrical and civil engineering etc – which will come by the end of next week. The committee will then create a consolidated proposal within a month that will be put up to the finance ministry. “The initial estimate works out to Rs 1,10,239 crore but it is likely to be expanded further,” the official said.
Another senior Railway Board official said discussions on the source of the fund are still at a preliminary stage. “It is still not clear whether a separate cess would have to be levied to create the fund like it was done in 2001. But the fund would be used largely for addressing safety related issues,” he said.
A similar fund to bolster safety infrastructure was introduced during the tenure of former railway minister Nitish Kumar in 2001 to wipe out the accumulated arrears of renewal of over-aged assets including tracks, bridged, signalling gears and rolling stock.
It was created with an initial corpus of Rs 17,000 crore of which Rs 12,000 crore had come from the finance ministry as dividend-free capital. The fund was closed in 2008 with its balance of Rs 597 crore merged into the Depreciation Reserve Fund.
Rail minister Suresh Prabhu had earlier this month held a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seeking assistance for creation of a special fund for safety upgradation. Officials said the fund will be channelised for elimination of level crossings, of Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), track renewals and signal upgradation.
Following the recent spate of train accidents, Prabhu has announced a zero accidents mission. Officials said the RRSK fund is part of that initiative to address the causes of accidents. The year 2015 has seen eight train accidents because of derailments. Two trains had derailed within minutes at the same spot near Harda in Madhya Pradesh in August claiming 29 lives, forcing Prabhu to tell zonal General Managers to pull up their socks.