The Indian Railways is reportedly planning to impose a "safety cess" to mop up funds for its proposed Rs 1.1 lakh crore non-lapsable National Railway Safety Fund (NRSF) so as to upgrade its infrastructure to improve safety standards and avoid accidents.
Even though the railway department is contemplating on seeking about 60% of the funds for the safety programme from the finance ministry, it is planning to raise the remaining funds from other measures including a cess.
"Apart from the funds expected from the finance ministry, innovative methods would be used to generate resources," a senior official told The Financial Express.
"We may introduce a safety cess for a particular period and may tap the private market too," the source added.
In November last year, the Railway Ministry had formed a six-member committee to work out a blueprint for the programme including the identification of sources for fund generation and areas that need spending.
The railways plans to use nearly 20-30% of the funds to upgrade rolling stock and setting up train collision avoidance systems. However, a significant part of the proposed fund will be used to build rail over bridges and under bridges, track renewals, elimination of manned and unmanned level crossings and repair of railway bridges.
A proposal to set up a safety funds comes in the wake of rising number of accidents on its network. It saw 69 accidents between 1 April and 15 November in the current fiscal year. Earlier, then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar had introduced a railway safety fund with a corpus of 17,000 crore but it lapsed in 2008.
In the four years to 15 November, 2015, accidents at "unmanned level crossings accounted for 38.9% of total accidents and 53.4% of total fatalities". Currently, the public transporter has 19,407 manned and 10,440 unmanned level crossings on its network.
"We have eliminated around 590 unmanned level crossings, closed 192 manned level crossings and constructed around 79 ROBs and 328 RUBs up to November," a railway official said.