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Maharashtra: Budget ‘inadequate’, some railway projects may take longer to complete

Previous payments not cleared yet, starting work on new projects could be delayed, say officials

COMPLETION OF projects to ensure essential passenger amenities on Central Railway and Western Railway may take longer, with officials raising a red flag over inadequate allocation of funds for it in this year’s budget. With previous payments to clear, starting work on new projects could be delayed, they said.

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While CR has received funds close to Rs 94 crore for passenger amenities in the budget, Rs 117 crore has been allotted to the WR. The officials complained that not only were the funds lower than what had been sought, funding sanctioned works could become an issue in immediate future. “We had made a demand of a minimum Rs 130 crore in the budget for passenger amenities. This was to clear pending payments to be made to the contractors for works concerning certain amenities at the stations. Prioritising station-wise requirement for due utilisation from available funds may remain a challenge,” said a senior CR official.

While the total allocation towards passenger amenities has gone up since the last year, delayed payments had slowed down the pace of work and delayed projects. Almost Rs 15 crore remains to be paid to the contractors for other CR projects.

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“As we sanctioned a considerable number of works over the last year, expecting a better sanction in this year’s budget, our liabilities have increased. The contractors who have been engaged are complaining as their payments are due. In such a scenario, planning fund usage for present needs is going to be difficult,” said another senior CR official.

While WR plans to build more foot over-bridges (FOB) with the available funds, completing work on minimum essential amenities that include platforms shelters, and more seats at stations and waiting halls, is the priority for CR. More lifts and escalators at important stations, including Churchgate, Panvel, Karjat and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus are in the pipeline.

“The allotted share of funds is surely not enough to match the planned work on lifts and escalators. A demand-wise list could now be made to cover basic amenities at those stations, which were off the list till now. Construction of more FOBs would be the aim,” said a Western Railway official.

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While Rs 7 crore has been allotted to the WR to raise the platform height between Churchgate and Virar, 48 platforms at 38 CR stations will be raised with a fund of Rs 1 crore. Officials said all A1 and A-category stations would be made disabled-friendly by the end of the year.

“The focus must be on creating more boundary walls and better urinals at stations from the funds allotted towards passenger amenities. While lifts and escalators are welcome, stations beyond Kalyan on CR and Bandra on WR must be provided with basic essential amenities at least,” said railway activist Gaurang Damani.

First published on: 09-02-2017 at 01:52:43 am
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