Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rail budget blah

February 26, 2008

H/l: State in the thick of things in rail budget
Intro: Maharashtra about to become centre of a well-defined railway axis

Mumbai: When Lalu Prasad gives, Maharashtra state rejoices. The Railway Budget 2007-2008 was unveiled yesterday to a storm of shouting from the Opposition benches for what they termed was a “parochial” budget, but Maharashtra has many reasons to be happy.

Lalu Prasad yesterday announced a slew of measures to upgrade existing and create new rail infrastructure in the state during his fifth budget speech on the floor of the House. A study of these measures indicates that not only is Maharashtra about to get better connected both within and without, but more power centers are going to emerge within the state apart from Mumbai and Pune.

The state will thus get the whole gamut of goods from automatic signaling on certain routes to new train services, from new initiatives to augment freight earnings to new regions being surveyed for possible railway station sites.

Pune and Mumbai are the major beneficiaries of such initiatives that will help develop both cities into world-class metros. Hence, while Pune shoots into prominence with the Delhi-Pune services during the October Youth Commonwealth Games in October this year, Mumbai’s CST railway station will be upgraded to world-class standards, and will get 300 new services up to next year.

Significantly, the state is about to get higher connectivity in most part with the Hindi hinterland and also with some parts of the south, thus creating a clear North-South-West axis with Maharashtra at the centre. A glaring illustration of this is that the Konkan railway is to serve as a conduit for an upcoming Goa-Patna rail route.

Another indicator is the clearing of the Delhi-JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) western freight corridor in the budget, construction of which will commence later this year. The Mumbai and Pune cargo terminals are also to be upgraded.

In all, there are to be at least 15 new routes being started from the state to other parts of the country, and two intra-state services.

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