Suresh Prabhu along with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar flagged off the passenger train via video-conferencing from Chandigarh railway station. (PTI photo)
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today flagged off a maiden train on 81-km railway line between Sonipat and Jind and stressed on the need to create infrastructure to promote growth and to meet future challenges.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Prabhu described Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh "as the growth triangle of India," saying government will pump in investments to further improve railway infrastructure in the region.
Mr Prabhu said Railways has joined hands with Haryana seeking speedy execution of viable rail projects in the state in a joint venture model.
The MoU was signed recently between them for constitution of a joint venture entity for development of rail infrastructure in the state, which Mr Prabhu said was going to be the first such state to have this kind of partnership.
"Earlier, Rs 314 crore were spent on development of rail infrastructure in Haryana, but this has now been almost tripled," he said.
Railways will join hands with Punjab too to have a JV on similar lines, Mr Prabhu said.
Mr Prabhu along with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar flagged off the passenger train via video-conferencing from Chandigarh railway station.
The train between Sonipat and Jind will also connect several hinterland villages and urban clusters with 13 railway stations, of which 10 will be new railway stations.
Mr Prabhu also launched a number of other passenger-centric projects through video conferencing. Other projects were new Foot-over-Bridge, railway station Sonipat and inauguration of a mechanized laundry in Chandigarh.
The laundry will cater requirement of linen for entire Ambala division. Apart from this, foundation stone of coaching-cum-maintenance facilities at railway station, Chheharta near Amritsar was also laid.
While the foundation stones of additional traffic facilities was laid at Chandigarh railway station that of 17 lifts and 10 escalator facilities was also laid at different railway stations.
Apart from this, foundation stones of 37 limited height subways in Punjab and Haryana was laid.
While Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, BJP lawmaker from Chandigarh Kirron Kher, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were scheduled to be part of the function in Chandigarh, Mr Prabhu said he had received a message from Mr Badal and Ms Kher stating they wanted to come but were unable to come due to some reasons.
Mr Prabhu announced that work on developing an elevated railway line at Rohtak in Haryana will begin soon. This will be the first such railway line of its kind in the country, he said.
Accepting the demands raised by Haryana chief minister, Mr Prabhu announced that work on developing freight corridor at Rohtak, which has already been approved in-principle, will begin soon.
"Our Prime Minister keeps saying we need to further strengthen our railways," Mr Prabhu said.
He said Narendra Modi government has done more work within a short of span of two years what the UPA could not do in its regime.
"From 4 km of new lines which were being laid every day, we have taken it to 8 km, soon it will be made 11 km and we have set a target of making it 19 km in next three years," he said.
Citing examples, the minister said railways had carried out gauge conversion of 1,528 km between 2009-14, whereas the NDA government has already carried out 2,828 km of gauge conversion.
Likewise, work is going on to convert unmanned level crossing gates into manned ones across the country.
Touching on railway over bridges and railway under bridges, he said 762 used to be constructed every year earlier, "but now we have increased the number by 50 per cent more."
On electrification work, he said, "In 2009-14, 1184 km was done as against 1730 km now."
Mr Prabhu said need of the hour was to create infrastructure keeping future challenges in mind.
"Keeping future challenges in mind, what we invest today, its benefits will be reaped in times to come. If we do not work on these now, then we will not be able to face challenges," he stated.
"We need to increase capital expenditure. During UPA time capital expenditure never crossed Rs 45,000 crore, during UPA-I it was only Rs 24,000 crore. Last year, we have increased it to Rs 93,795 crore," he said.
Mr Prabhu said "we invested amounts in excess of Rs 24,000 crore, which earlier was mere Rs 2,600 crore."
The present Central government was committed to improve rail infrastructure, and make the journey of passengers safe and secure and one which they will cherish.
"In 560 trains you can send a SMS if you do not find housekeeping good," he said.
Responding to demand raised by Punjab Minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon who was representing Chief Minister Badal at today's function, Mr Prabhu said, "as many wagons are needed for transportation of food grains, we will make these available."
In this regard, Mr Prabhu asked Punjab's Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal to set up a coordination committee so that plan of action is put in place and work gets started.
Mr Kairon, who is Punjab's Food and Supplies Minister, had said that wagons allotted by the Railways to Punjab for movement of food grains outside the state are inadequate.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar described Railways as the lifeline of the country.
Mr Khattar said development of railways in the state was being carried out at a rapid pace, and the present government had sanctioned a large number of railway projects for the state, including the new Sonipat-Jind railway line.
"A new train has been started between Rohtak and Hansi at a cost of Rs 660 crore. During the past 19 months of the present state government a large number of Railway Over Bridges (ROBs) and Under Bridges (RUBs) have been constructed in the state," he added.
Referring to the statement made by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who has claimed that the newly-inaugurated Sonipat-Jind rail line project had been started by the UPA government, Mr Khattar said all such projects belonged to the Railways Ministry and were national projects and should be welcomed as such.
Talking about the Chandigarh railway station, Mr Prabhu said it will be made a world class.
"We have taken it on top priority..," he said.
Mr Prabhu also said that setting up of a high speed railway line on the Delhi-Chandigarh is in "preliminary-planning".
He said the present Central Government wants to set up High Speed Rail (HSR) corridor on certain routes.
"Mumbai-Ahmedabad will be the first in the series. Later on Delhi to Chennai HSR, we want to take up. Yesterday only, we had talks with a foreign company for this route, on which work would first be taken up on Delhi-Nagpur and then Nagpur to Chennai stretch," Mr Prabhu said.
Talking about Gatiman express, he said the train which is running between Delhi-Agra will be replicated another route also.
Tejas, a new train will be started and will run at a speed of over 130 kmph, he added.
Antyodaya express train will help common people as its seats will be unreserved. Another train -- Uday will depart during the night hours and reach its destination during in the morning, Mr Prabhu said.