Presenting the budget 2006-07, he said while Railways modernised its locomotives and coaches in 1990s, wagons presently deployed still use the technology of the 80s and announced that "all possible efforts would be made to start manufacturing aluminium and stainless (steel) wagons to improve the payload to tare weight ratio".
He said it is not possible to load "covered and open" wagons beyond 64 tonnes, except with certain heavy commodities. RDSO is designing new high capacity wagons to facilitate commodities like coal to be loaded up to 70 tonnes. "Prototypes of these wagons will be developed in the coming years and trials will be completed. Regular production of the new wagons, with payload-to-tare weight ratio of even better than 3:1, will start from 2007-08", Prasad said.
In addition, he said Railways has to manufacture 25 tonne axle load wagons, which can carry loads up to 80 tonnes and whose payload-to-tare weight ratio is around 4:1.
"We need to manufacture special wagons to increase Railways' share in the transportation of commodities like motor vehicles, petrochemicals etc," the Railway Minister said.
He said at present this technology is not available in the country and keeping this in view technology transfer will have to be encouraged for developing such wagons for which the Railways will provide the necessary policy framework.
Referring to signalling and telecommunications, the Railway Minister said advanced Railways world over are using modern signalling and telecommunications technology to enhance safety, streamline train operations and increase line capacity.
"Using such technologies is cost effective. I, therefore, have decided that modern signalling and telecommunications means will be used for improving safety and enhancing line capacity on trunk and main routes", he said.
Prasad said that a multi-disciplinary team will be constituted for an in depth study of various advanced signalling and telecommunications alternatives.
It will submit its report within three months and after reviewing it, a policy would be framed for deciding extensive use of these technologies, he said.
On the use of IT in improving railway services, Prasad said there has been a remarkable improvement in operating efficiency of freight transportation with the help of Freight Operating Information System."In the first phase of this project Rake Management System has been implemented at all major locations. In the second phase, Terminal Management System will also be implemented at all major locations", he said.
Apart from this, he said work is also progressing expeditiously on control charting, crew management and Coaching Operations Information System. "Next year, all efforts will be made to implement Control Charting System on all the divisions".
Prasad said Railways would encourage public-private partnership schemes for effecting significant improvements in rail services and development and expansiion of rail network.
"To this end, a level playing field under a transparent policy will be provided to investors by further simplifying the policy of public-private partnership", he said, adding that Railways have invited state governments, local bodies, ports and private sector to invest in rail projects.
The Ministry of Railways will make available many models of public partnership and public-private partnership, he said.
Under this policy, Prasad said eligible rail projects will also be awarded through open bidding so that a level playing field can be provided to all the parties by making the entire process competitive and transparent.Railways has also decided to encourage such partnerships for unviable projects by arranging viability gap funding, the Railway Minister said.