Govt. Expands Panel for Revamping Indian Railways Orders Fresh Mandate

The government has ordered a fresh mandate for a high-powered panel of secretaries to fast-track innovative financing for Railway projects, monetising assets of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, corporatisation of productions units and monetisation of existing assets.

Last year, the railway ministry had set up an empowered group of secretaries (EGoS) for development of 50 railway stations to global standards and permit private passenger train operators to run 150 trains with world class technology over the country’s railway network. The group was headed by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and members included the railway board chairman, secretary of department of economic affairs, secretary of ministry of housing and urban affairs and the financial commissioner of railways.

The terms of reference of the EGoS included approval of the bidding process, monitoring of bidding and taking decisions to ensure award of projects in a time-bound manner. Now, the terms of reference have been widened and the tenure of the EGoS has been extended by another year.

Official said the new EGoS, which will have economic affairs secretary Tarun Bajaj as one of the members, can also include secretary of corporate affairs, secretary of labour and employment, secretary of department of expenditure and secretary of department of personnel and training.

“The EGoS has fulfilled its earlier mandate effectively. There is considerable progress in station development as well as running of trains by private operators and now there is a new mandate to improve railways finances and ensure that new financing options are explored,” said an official who did not wish to be identified.

The new terms of reference of the EGoS also include innovative financing of railways projects for increased investment in the state-run transporter, development of railway infrastructure through hybrid annuity and other modes and operationalisation of the Rail Development Authority.

The official said the railway ministry and the government is of view that there is an urgent need to inject professionalism across the Indian Railway set-up and ensure that funds were better utilised as well as production units were better and professionally managed. The railways have seven production units for manufacturing coaches, wheel and axles, among other products.