Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Dec 21:

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today wrote to Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu seeking a railway package worth Rs 5870 crore for the state for financial year 2017-18.

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“For the forthcoming Budget 2017-18, I have proposed a package on railways for Odisha for your consideration and I reiterate that this package will help both Odisha and Indian Railways in furthering their goals of economic and social justice. This package of Rs 5870 crore includes detailed proposals for the ongoing projects, sanctioning of new lines, station modernization, introduction of new trains, extension of existing trains, improved passenger amenities at stations, on board services, establishment of rail based industries, multi modal logistics parks etc,” wrote Naveen.

In his letter, Patnaik reminded Prabhu of state’s contribution to the railways and expected him to factor in the priorities of the state and its people’s aspirations, which are to be considered for inclusion in the coming 2017-18 Budget.

“I would like to highlight that Odisha generates an annual revenue for Indian Railways in excess of Rs 15000 crore and yet the rail density (15.0) in the State is much less than the national average (19.0), and much lower in comparison to the adjoining states (West Bengal: 43.4 and Jharkhand: 24.3).”

“Odisha Government has contributed majority equity in two ongoing railway SPV projects namely Angul Sukinda Railway Ltd and Haridaspur Paradip Railway Company Ltd. Odisha has agreed to bear 50% and’ 25% of the construction cost of Jeypore-Nabarangpur and Jeypore-Malkangiri lines respectively. Further, State Government has extended land free of cost with the objective to expedite the implementation of Jeypore-Nabarangpur railway tracks. Similarly, for the Khurda-Bolangir railway line, the state has committed to allocate all land in the Daspalla – Bolangir stretch (from 112 to 289 km) free of cost as well as share 50% of construction cost for this segment,” he added.

A cursory glance at the Railway map would show that a large expanse of Odisha have remained untouched by the Railways. I urge Indian Railways to support the State Government’s vision to extend the reach of rail network to the farthest parts of Odisha — specifically the regions that have not got the opportunity to grow with rail connectivity. Some of the most important lines in this regard are: Gopalpur-Singapur road New BG line (via Padampur, Ramanguda, Bankili), Bhadranchalam-Bimlagarh, Bargarh-Nuapada via Padarnpur, Talcher-Gopalpur, wrote Patnaik.

He further requested the Railway minister to initiate the east coast dedicated freight corridor from Kharagpur to Vijaywada and east-west dedicated freight corridor from Jharsuguda to Bilaspur to ensure seamless movement of freight between the upcoming ports (Kirtania, Chudamani, Dhamra, Astarang and Gopalpur) on the Odisha coast along with the major port at Paradip and the vast northern and central hinterlands of India.

“Though both these DFCs have been announced in the last Railway Budget of 2016-17, no further action has been initiated yet,” complained Patnaik.

Besides the above new works, Naveen also highlighted the slow pace of execution of the already sanctioned railway projects in the state.

“Jaleswar-Digha new line, doubling of Sambalpur-Titlagarh, third line of Barang-Bhubaneswar, doubling of Titlagarh-Raipur, Talcher-Bimlagarh and Daitari–Keonjhar-Banspani lines are a few important ongoing works which need to be accelerated and completed within their targeted time lines.”

“To ensure seamless flow of traffic and easier access between industrial and mining areas and ports, following short links need to be sanctioned early: Puri-Konark (35 Kms), Paradip-Dhamra (80 Kms), Champua-Anandpur-Jajpur (138Kms), Baripada-Jajpur-Keojhar Road, Talcher-Angul (17 Kms). Additionally, Jajpur-Keonjhar Road-Jajpur (via Aradi) link is equally important for pilgrims visiting the religious destination at Biraja Kshetra which can be comparable to Dwaraka and Kashi,” Patnaik wrote.

In addition, he had a word of caution over the performance of Rail Vikash Nigam Limited.

“Though I am glad that SPVs for Angul-Sukinda-Dubri and Haridaspur-Paradip rail links have been formed with participation of other stakeholders, the performance of the executing agency, Rail Vikash Nigam Limited, a Railway Ministry undertaking, is far from satisfactory. RVNL has not been able to put all contracts in place yet in these SPVs. RVNL may be instructed to improve their contract management and complete these two projects within the targeted timelines. I would also seek early action from Railway ministry to process running of passenger trains in these two lines which are passing through backward and unconnected areas of the state,” said Naveen.

The Chief Minister also requested Prabhu to ensure that the proposed Bhubaneswar New station be constructed with international class facilities and requested him to commence detailed planning for rail based city transport system in greater Bhubaneswar region.

“The station is being executed by RVNL as part of Bhubaneswar-Barang third line project and Ministry of Railways needs to ensure that the Bhubaneswar New Station building is equipped with all modem passenger amenities. Similarly there is an urgent need to upgrade the passenger amenities at other important stations in the state, namely, Puri, Bhadrak, Brahmapur, Cuttack, Jajpur-Keonjhar Road, Khurda Road, Rayagada, Sambalpur, Balasore, Jharsuguda and Rourkela. It may be noted that development of these stations requires budgetary support of Railway as PPP mode may not be a viable model in this part of the country.”

“To meet the travelling need of the daily commuters, DEMU/MEMU services should be introduced in Sambalpur-Jharsuguda-Rourkela, Cuttack-Paradip, Brahmapur-Balasore and Rourkela-Keonjhar corridors. A new train service from Puri to Mumbai via Sambalpur and Titilagarh has also become essential. The existing express service between Bhubaneswar and-Keonjhar needs to be extended to Jamshedpur via Banspani.”

“For smooth transit of traffic and freight, augmentation of back-end system is very important. I urge you to take expeditious steps for sanctioning the following set ups for holistic and contemporary development of the state: Electric locomotive maintenance (POH) at Kalahandi, Wagon Factory at Sitalapali in Ganjam, Concrete sleeper plants at Kantabanji and Bandamunda, Skill Development Centres in KBK districts,” Patnaik wrote.

He also requested the Railway Minister to establish new Divisional HQs at Rayagada, Jajpur-Keonjhar Road and Rourkela by extending the jurisdiction of East Coast Railway (ECoR) to include Banspani-Padapahar section, Bhadrak-Lakhmannath section in Khurda Road division, Jharsuguda-Barasuan-Kiriburu, Rourkela-Nuagaon and Jharsuguda-Himagiri section in Sambalpur division.