A report by the country's top auditor that flagged the amount spent on railway safety and track repair as inadequate, has been refuted by railway sources, who said it covers data for three years up to 2019-20, after which the budget for safety measures was increased and utilised fully.
"Contrary to statements being made... the Railways spent more than Rs 1 lakh crore" on safety issues, sources said.
Comparing the funds spent on safety during 10 years of UPA government to nine years of NDA government, sources said the expenditure on track renewal has gone up from 47,039 crore to 1,09,023 crore "reflecting an increase of more than double".
Total expenditure on safety measures - including track renewal, bridges, level crossing, signalling -- has gone up from 70,274 crore to 1,78,012 crore, they said.
Sources also said the government set up a non-lapsable five-year fund of 1 lakh crore for rail safety, which has been fully utilized. The validity of the fund was increased by another five years from February 2022.
Accordingly, the CAG report, they said, "gives a partial picture on actual expenditure that has been undertaken on both track renewal as well as safety related works by India Railways. As is the practice, a detailed reply on all issues raised in this report is being sent shortly".
The auditor's report, which was presented in parliament last year, had drawn attention following Friday's three-train pile-up in Odisha, in which more than 270 people were killed and more than 1,100 people injured.
In the report on derailments in Indian Railways, the Comptroller and Auditor General had focused on whether measures to prevent derailments and collisions were clearly laid down and implemented by the rail ministry.
It flagged multiple shortfalls, including in terms of inspections, reports after accidents, non-utilisation of a dedicated railway fund on priority tasks, declining trend in funding for track renewal, and inadequate staffing in safety operations.
"There were shortfalls ranging from 30-100 per cent in inspections by Track Recording Cars required to assess geometrical and structural conditions of railway tracks," the report had said.