Present role and future of IRTS
Over the last few years Indian Railways has been riding on the crest of boom in the Indian economy. The originating freight loading which stood at 587 million tonnes in 2003-04 is now expected to reach 1160 million tonnes in the current financial year 2017-18.
Having a history of more than 100 years, Traffic Department is responsible for optimum utilization of Railway assets and their seamless integration to provide a swift and safe transportation service and consequent realization of revenues in-line with the social obligations of the Indian Railways. Public Service Delivery and Asset Management are their forte.
Over the years, we have witnessed manifold increase in freight and passenger traffic catered by Indian Railways without commensurate enhancement in the capacity of the system. Tepid investment in capacity enhancement has led to oversaturation of most of the important sections of Indian Railways which has further created pressure to improve the utilization of Railway assets. For years, we have been facing capacity constraints in terms of line capacity, locomotives, rolling stock, manpower, terminal bottlenecks etc. At the same time, there has been a huge investment in the road sector. As a result, there has been steady decline in the market share on Indian Railways. Realizing the need of capacity enhancement, Indian Railways plan to infuse capital to the tune of Rs 8.56 lakh Cr in 2015-20 of which, importantly Rs 2 lakh cr will be used in network decongestion and Rs 1 lakh Cr in station development and logistic parks besides investments in rolling stock, etc. Once these are in place, we would have adequate capacities to substantially reduce journey and transit times and provide faster, reliable and cost effective services. The plan expenditure of IR has increased from Rs 54,000 crores in 2014-15 to Rs 1.11 Lakh Crores in 2016-17 and targeted to be Rs 1.31 lakh crores in 2017-18. The recent budget for 2018-19 has envisaged a capital expenditure of Rs 1.48 lakh crores.
The works for Dedicated Freight Corridors are in full swing. Freight operations on the Indian Railways are set to witness a paradigm shift with the stage-wise completion of its two dedicated freight corridors, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) and the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC), over the next four years, beginning in 18. With the two freight corridors in operation, our freight operations will see a fundamental change brought about by reduction in unit cost of transportation, smaller organization and management cost, with higher efficiency and lower energy consumption.
The Recent decision by Hon’ble MR Sh.Piyush Goyal for 100% electrification of Indian Railways in next 5 years would bring unprecedented change in the operations of the train with traction change becoming a thing of past.
Another decision to upgrade the signaling system a cost of Rs 70,000 crores would not only improve safety but also substantially increase the capacity of the system.
In view of shortage of coaches to meet the demand, the productions units have been given a target for producing 5000 LHB coaches per year which is around double of the current output. All ICF coaches are planned to be replaced with LHB ones in next 8 years.
Similarly, to meet the demand, the wagon production plan for 2018-19 has been increased to around 24,000 wagons against normal production output of around 10,000 wagons per year. Private investments in special purpose wagons are being encouraged.
To meet the demand of faster transport and to compete with airline industry, Indian Railways has embarked upon adoption of High Speed Rail Technology and in this direction has undertaken measures like a policy decision regarding setting up a Diamond Quadrilateral of High Speed Rail network in the country connecting major metros and growth centres - Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. Mumbai-Ahmadabad High Speed Rail Corridor (MAHSR) is the first project being implemented through technical and financial assistance of Government of Japan and is envisaged to be completed by 2023.
The next 5-7 years are going to witness a major enhancement in the capacity of the system and perhaps we will have adequate capacity to run trains as per the demand from our customers. With unleashing of this additional capacity, Indian Railways are going to enter a new era of surplus capacity and the roles of IRTS officers, who hitherto have been working in a capacity constrain scenario, will also undergo a paradigm shift. Further, Indian Railways are also going to face unprecedented competition from road and air sectors in view of large scale investment taking place in making highways, airports etc. The optimum utilisation of the available capacity of IR system at competitive rates with service commitments will be the biggest challenge for us in times to come. In this context the role of the IRTS officers has become all the more challenging and to some extent daunting. We neeed to aquire and develop new skills in the fields of marketing, business intelligence, data analytics, supply chain and logistics management to not only be successful but to remain in transportation business in the days to come. In this era of swift transformation, We need to outpace the developments taking place in transportation industry to remain competitive as well as relevant. All the IRTS officers need to hone these skills and not bogged down by routine works. Unless we are able to re-engeneer our processes to attract traffic, regain our market share and revive our position of market leader in transportatoion sector, we may have tough time in times to come.