Indian Railways has fixed a budget of Rs 98.6 crore to provide Wi-Fi facility in 50 rakes of Rajdhani, Shatabdi & Duranto category of trains, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha informed Rajya Sabha.
In August 2014, the Indian Railways had mentioned that the estimated budget for introducing Wi-Fi facility in these trains had been fixed at Rs 55 crore. At the time, the Railways had also mentioned that they would be using a cost effective technology. So, it isn’t clear why the budget has been nearly doubled, though very little progress has been made in actually providing Wi-Fi facility in these trains.
Indian Railways had already introduced Wi-Fi facility in 3 rakes of Howrah-New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express as a pilot project, in April 2013 after initially announcing it in February 2011. Apparently, Eastern Railway had spent Rs 6.67 crore for this pilot project, which utilised satellite communication technology to ensure continuous connectivity. Indian Railways had also mentioned that Northern Railway had been allocated Rs 1 crore in the current fiscal year to start work on introducing Wi-Fi connectivity in other trains.
Will the increase in budget ensure swifter implementation?
Now that the budget has been nearly doubled, will the Indian Railways fix a deadline and speed up implementation? It has been over 18 months since the Howrah-New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express pilot project, and nearly 6 years since the Indian Railways had run a similar pilot project on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express. Is it too much to expect some results on the ground now?
Earlier this year, Railways Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda had also announced that workstations and internet will be provided in select trains on payment basis, and that a pilot project to this effect will be launched by the end of 2014.