Saturday, November 22, 2014

Suresh Prabhu flies to Mumbai to fix railways

Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has formulated a 56-point agenda to bring Mumbai's train network back on track. Prabhu flew to Mumbai on Friday to hold meetings with the general managers of Western and Central Railways, managers and managing directors of Konkan Railway and officials from the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation, and devise a plan for the rail transport network.

Among the significant measures discussed during the meeting were a master plan prepared by the railways, state government and the Mumbai Port Trust to create a transport corridor for fast harbour railway trains to connect the city to the new airport, remedies regarding maintenance and repairs, a 15-day deadline to set right Mumbai's suburban sector and the pending DC-to-AC conversion project. "I have been receiving many complaints about the delays in the way the railway functions," Prabhu told Mumbai Mirror. "I told everyone present at the meeting that urgent steps need to be taken. We will have to work in a time-bound manner and clear the huge back log in Mumbai.''

Officers present at the meeting informed Prabhu that overcrowding and ageing assets were a cause for concern. "He was told that investment of Rs 50,000 crore is needed in Mumbai," an official present at the meeting said. They also said Floor Space Index relaxations and approvals for land use have to be accorded by the urban development department and civic bodies to aid speedy rail network expansion.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who met Prabhu during his visit to the city said, "The railway minister spoke to me about the work that needs to be taken up. Since there were delays in the suburban system, I spoke to railway officials. They said there weren't enough megablocks scheduled for maintenance. The signalling system and outlay too has to be improved, I was told."

BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who met Prabhu, said maintenance and repairs were also discussed.


Later on Friday, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu visited the Thackeray residence, Matoshree, where he is understood to have met with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav for around 20 minutes.

Prabhu had shocked the Sena by switching over to BJP on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his Cabinet, and was promptly inducted and given the Railways portfolio. He had been handpicked by Uddhav and given a ticket from Sindhudurg Lok Sabha constituency in 1999 and 2004, from where he won. He was, however, sidelined after his defeat in 2009.

Faced with a dearth of talent in the Union Cabinet, Modi had wanted Prabhu to be part of it and had asked Sena to suggest names of two party MPs. Sena had suggested Anil Desai, but Modi wanted Prabhu.

During his visit to Mumbai on Friday, Prabhu also visited the Bal Thackeray memorial at Shivaji park and garlanded his wife Meenatai's statue at Dadar.


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