Over the weekend, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a virtual ceremony og laying the foundation stone for 508 railway stations to be upgraded across the country’s 27 states and territories, as part of the first phase of the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme launched last December.
Amrit Bharat Station Scheme was designed with aim of transforming over 1,300 of India’s 7,300 train stations. The first phase is estimated to cost around 250 billion rupees ($3 billion) and is projected to be completed in the next two years. The project aims to redevelop station complexes, including by creating new public spaces, waiting halls, commercial facilities, and escalators.
Addressing an event for which 1.2 million people were mobilized across India – including 11 chief ministers of state, 19 governors and lieutenant governors, 16 government ministers, 302 MPs, and 82,000 family members of railway employees – Prime Minister Modi highlighted the growing global interest in India and touted the project as a new chapter in the history of Indian Railways, which dates back to the colonial era.
“These Amrit railway stations will be a symbol of taking pride in one’s heritage and instill pride in every citizen,” Prime Minister declared.
Mr. Modi underlined his government’s emphasis is on making the nation’s railways environmentally friendly, which includes the 100% electrification of rail lines. Over 1,200 stations in India now generate electricity from solar panels, Modi stated, adding that this would be the aim for the remaining stations across the country.
“By 2030, India will be a country whose railway network will run on net zero emissions,” Prime Minister proclaimed.
Indian Railways, which carries around 13 million passengers daily and serves as a lifeline for the world’s most populous nation, is the country’s biggest state-run employer and provides jobs to over 1.1 million people.
Key personnel involved in the modernization project have been sent on familiarization tours to stations redeveloped in recent years, such as Rani Kamlapati in the state of Bhopal and Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
More than 9,000 personnel are undergoing training for the refurbished Amrit Bharat stations. The government is hopeful that the infrastructure upgrade will last half a century.
The station revamp project was unveiled just two months after a tragedy in the state of Odisha, where at least 293 people killed and over 1,000 injured when a signal error led to a triple train collision. A report by the commissioner of railway safety cited lapses in signaling circuit alteration, noting that similar failures took place in 2022 elsewhere in the country, and if corrective measures had been taken, the tragedy could have been prevented.
Meanwhile, Indian Railways has received a year-on-year budget increase since the Modi government came to power in 2014. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allocated 2.40 trillion rupees ($29 billion) for the 2023-24 financial year, compared to 1.40 trillion rupees ($17 billion) the year before.