Kolkata: Attributing "years of neglect" and "lack of investments" for the railways poor performance, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday compared the national carrier to a patient in ICU.
On a two-day visit to the city during which he met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Prabhu on Friday attended several events and announced online conduct of future railway recruitment examinations and launched a mobile app for the security of female commuters.
"In the last several years, we have not invested in the railways as much as was necessary. It is now showing clearly in terms of safety, dropping customer service and delays," he said.
"We cannot put more trains unless we augment our capacity. All these are showing because of years of neglect and lack of investments," he said.
Prabhu likened the railways to an ICU patient and said comparing it with the Chinese railway was akin to the patient running a marathon.
The minister, however, asserted that things were moving in the right direction and called for cooperation from the states in dealing with the problems of railways.
"The problems are mammoth and we have to work in partnership with the states to tackle these. We need to correct it, but nothing will happen overnight," he said adding that the central government would be investing $120 billion in the railways.
The minister said his department was working on bringing in transparency in all functional aspects and announced the future railway recruitment examinations will be conducted online.
"Some people were complaining about the malpractices in recruitment in 2014. I have addressed that issue by making sure all examinations are conducted online," said Prabhu whose convoy was blocked by a group of people protesting against the alleged malpractices in the 2014 South Eastern Railway recruitment examination.
He also lamented the railways was not getting enough freight despite being capable of handling 1.2 billion tonne of cargo, but hoped the situation will improve from October.
About the Dedicated Eastern Freight Corridor, he said the entire tendering process for it will be completed latest by April 2016.
The minister has pegged the revised estimate of the 3360-km-long track project at Rs.82,000 crore, out of which tenders worth Rs. 15,000 crore have already been issued.
He also launched a mobile app for the security of female train commuters availing the services of suburban train services under the Eastern railway.
The app - Railway Mobile Instant Tracking Response and Assistance (R-MITRA) - immediately sends alerts to the nearest Railway Protection Force (RPF) inspector as well as the Divisional Security Control Room (DSCR) providing location as well as the identity of the victim.
The app works both online and offline and can be used to send photos of the assaulter as well as to communicate with the railway authorities through messages or call.
Describing passengers safety as one of the biggest challenges of the railways, Prabhu said technology can help the national carrier in providing better security.
Describing his Thursday's meet with Banerjee as "excellent", he exuded confidence of getting the state government's cooperation in improving railway infrastructure and services in Bengal.
"As many as 17 states have agreed to form joint venture with the railways for developing infrastructure and we hope Bengal will join soon," he said.
Prabhu on Thursday announced the central government would bear the entire additional cost of Rs.765 crore on the much-delayed East West Metro Rail project.