Saturday, June 24, 2017

Though the Railways had sanctioned Rs 6 crore for manufacturing a new presidential saloon in its 2007-08 budget, President Pranab Mukherjee’s secretariat cited security concerns and inconvenience to the general public to reject the proposal the following year.
INDIA Updated: Jun 23, 2017 
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu undertook 25 journeys in saloons until last September, with a total travel time of 32 days.(PTI/ File photo)

The country may be yet to decide on its next President, but the railway ministry is already planning a Rs 8-crore railway saloon for the winning candidate to move around in. The state-owned transporter will present a proposal in this regard for the new President’s approval in July.

Past presidents – from Dr Rajendra Prasad to Dr Radhakrishnan and Dr Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy – travelled in twin carriages of ceremonial saloons built in 1956 on as many as 87 occasions since Independence. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was the last to journey in the saloon in 2006. However, it was in the same year that the regal carriages – complete with a conference hall, lounge, study rooms and a cabin for the President’s military secretary – were declared unsafe for train operations.

The Railways – in its 2007-08 budget – sanctioned funds to the tune of Rs 6 crore for manufacturing a new presidential saloon. However, President Pranab Mukherjee’s secretariat cited security concerns – besides possible disruption of passenger traffic – to reject the plan in 2008.

“If the new President desires, the Railways can build the new saloon soon,” Arun Arora, chief mechanical engineer at Northern Railways, said.

The proposed saloon, to be manufactured on the German LHB design coach platform, will boast of plasma colour televisions, GPS and GPRS systems, Immersat satellite antennas, bulletproof windowpanes and a 20-line telephone exchange. It will also have a modular kitchen and a public address system. Manufacture costs are currently estimated at Rs 8 crore.

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