Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train a vanity project of govt: Derek O’Brien


PTI, Mar 24, 2022, 4:50 PM IST

New Delhi: Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien on Thursday termed the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train line a ”vanity project” of the Centre and accused the government of not addressing the real transportation needs of the common people. Speaking at a discussion on the working of the Ministry of Railways in the Upper House, O’Brien also sought transparency in the matter regarding the private trains, Tejas, while also criticising the government for lack of ”big ideas” to further enhance the national transporter. ”Your outlook on the railways is different from the Trinamool Congress and many other parties… For us, the railways constitutes the infrastructure for the fundamental right of every Indian citizen to travel from point A to point B. It is a fundamental right as far as transport goes. You may look at differently, we do not,” he said.

Citing the example of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the TMC MP said, ”We feel nothing (is) wrong with the bullet train at some later stage. To make that bullet train, it costs you about Rs 200 crore a km. Our priority would have been the dedicated freight corridor for ‘sabzi’ (vegetables), for ‘chawal (rice), ‘for everything else at Rs 25 crore a km.” He further said, ”I understand, I say this on the floor of the House that bullet train is your vanity project.” The total cost of the project is pegged at Rs 1.08 lakh crore. The 508.17-kilometre long network will pass through Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar in Maharashtra; and Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Accusing the government of considering the ability of common Indians to afford expensive trains, he said, ”The Vande Bharat Express, the cost of ticket is Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 somewhere in that range.” Commenting on private trains, O’Brien said, ”Tejas trains halted eight months later. (In) 2021, we are told dozens of companies filed tenders. Whenever RTI activists write to Railway Boards, no data is available. What is the communication for these private trains?” Stating that there was an empowered group of secretaries which was set up by the railway ministry, he asked, ”How many meetings have they had? Share with MPs what was discussed at those meetings.” Accusing the government of indulging in differential treatment of different railway zones in fund allocation, he said, ”Southern Railways got less than Rs 400 crore in the last four years, the Northern Railway, if you add it up, it comes to about Rs 30,000 crore. Conceptually, we talk so much about federalism, but where is the federalism?” He asked the railways ministry to share the percentage of allocation to states and how much have they received while also suggesting the ministry to consider in a bigger way to make the freight trades affordable in the North East as the region cannot afford expensive freights.

Taking part in the discussion, Neeraj Shekhar (BJP) said in the last few years, the railways has witnessed a drastic change, specially in cleanliness of trains and at stations. Harshvardhan Singh Dungarpur (BJP) also highlighted several steps taken by the government and the railways for development.

G K Vasan from TMC(M) highlighted the lack of sufficient fund allotment for railway projects in Tamil Nadu and sought timely completion of projects in the state. K Ravindra Kumar of TDP asked the minister to fill up the ”lakhs of posts” lying vacant in the railways.

Rambhai Harjibhai Mokariya of the BJP also spoke in Gujarati in the discussion to express his views.

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