Railways has been chosen as one of the engines of growth by the Modi government and this is reflected in heavy duty investments towards its development and growth across zones, South Central Railway (SCR) being no exception.
SCR, which mainly encompasses Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, has been getting substantial funds since 2014. The average budgetary allocation for infrastructure projects and safety works, falling fully or partly in Telangana during 2014-19, was ₹1,110 crore a year.
This was enhanced to ₹2,056 crore in 2019-20, ₹2,602 crore in 2020-21, ₹2486 crore in 2021-22 and ₹3,048 crore in 2022-23 and this year, it was ₹4,418 crore.
The launch of MMTS Phase-2 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a key moment during his visit to Secunderabad railway station to flag off the Vande Bharat Express to Tirupati, considering the more than a decade delay.
The near ₹700 crore upgradation of Secunderabad railway station, a new terminal station coming up at Cherlapally, completion of the pending rail connectivity towards Mahabubnagar, Medak, connecting Nizamabad-Peddapalli-Karimnagar, Secunderabad-Manoharabad and so on, have been significant developments in recent years.
Senior Railway officials point out that the commencement of works for the proposed wagon repair/manufacturing facility at Kazipet, the speedy construction of the third line works upto Vijayawada-Balharshah sections, portend to the hectic activity in the months ahead which would only benefit the socio-economic development of the region.
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has told Parliament recently that SCR had commissioned an average 55 km new lines/doubling works a year in Telangana during 2014-22. This was 216% higher than the average 17.4 km a year commissioned during 2009-14.
About 229 km new lines, falling fully/partly in Telangana, were laid in the same period and 211 km of doubling works are taken up. Eight new lines and five doubling works costing ₹30,062 crore for 2,390 km falling fully or partly in the State are in different stages of planning or approval or execution.
The zone, shaking off the COVID blues, has been doing extremely well in terms of earning record breaking revenue both in the passenger front and freight (₹18,973.14 crore) carrying 22.5 crore passengers and hauling 131.854 million tonnes (MT).
It has been consistently clocking high electrification rates with 1,017 km (second highest electrification across Indian Railways) in 2022-23 alone, ensuring most of the zone powered by overhead lines. Speed limit was raised to 130 kmph on all the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) and Golden Diagonal (GD) routes and the high-density Secunderabad-Kazipet section, on a total of 1,743.42 km.
Amidst all the euphoria, SCR has some serious work to do on the punctuality front, which has plumetted to the 80s mark. Passengers have been complaining about trains being held up on the outskirts of the capital on a daily basis for hours together. Of course, much has to be done to improve sanitation in trains. Only a few marquee trains get proper treatment while the rest wallow in broken infrastructure and dirt.
“Sanitation should be a continuous effort and it is not enough to clean at the beginning and end of the journey and blame passengers for littering,” points out M. Srinivas, a regular commuter between Secunderabad and Vijayawada. The pandemic and heavy demand for pilgrims’ specials has exposed the inadequate number of trains up north India.
SCR is yet to figure in the railways radar of providing dedicated rail corridors for freight as it has happened between Mumbai-Delhi-Kolkata or high speed train projects like the one coming up between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.