Indian Railways is set to miss its target of 3,500 km of new tracks, gauge conversion and doubling/tripling for capacity augmentation due to a shortage in supply of rails, and available rails are being diverted for renewal of existing tracks.
The Railways is focusing on capacity augmentation as some rail routes carry traffic way beyond their capacity.
A shortage of rails supplied by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) is delaying track renewal work. However, the Railways is expected to achieve 2,000 km of track renewal by the end of the fiscal year 2017-18, said a Railway Ministry official.
Data with the ministry show a worrying picture. The railway network has a total track length of 1,14,907 km, and of this, 4,500 km of track, on average, should ideally be renewed annually.
But Indian Railways has been able to carry out only 2,000-2,500 km of track renewal each year during the last five years, leading to a backlog of 5,000 km by 2016.
“The shortage of rails has slowed down capacity augmentation work. Besides, the ministry has decided to focus on track renewal to ensure passenger safety in the wake of rising derailments in the past one year. This means that we will miss the target of capacity augmentation in 2017-18,” the official said.
For the first time, the Railway Ministry in October 2017 invited a global tender for supply of rails by private players to meet the demand.
The ministry called for procurement of an additional 7 lakh tonnes of rails worth about Rs.3,500 crore.