Asserting that renewal of railway tracks is a necessity for safety of passengers, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said he has asked his officers to not allow any train to pass when track maintenance work is on.
"Replacing old rail tracks with new is essential for the safety of passengers and all the new procured tracks are being used to replace the old tracks," he told reporters at the Bharatiya Janata Party office on the sidelines of the state treasurers meeting.
"I have directed my officials to not entertain requests of letting train to pass when the track maintenance work is on. They should not even entertain my directions to let pass any train when maintenance work is going on."
On August 19, 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailed in Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh leaving over 23 dead and 150 others injured. An inquiry found that the maintenance work was being done without authorisation.
According to Railways Ministry officials, the Minister's stress for track renewal had seen an increase in the number of blocks in various zones.
The railway official also claimed that earlier, on an average, a rail zone was allocated only 50 per cent of the total maintenance blocks demanded by track engineers on a route.
But in the last few months, almost 65 per cent of the demands for maintenance blocks had been granted.
Goyal also said his Ministry's track renewal target for 2017-18 has been set for 4,000-4,500 km.
Emphasising that track renewal was railway's topmost priority, he said: "There is no restriction on the budget and I hope that 2017-18 will be the first time in railway history that the Ministry will meet its renewal targets."
The railways in its new timetable, released on November 1, has allocated time slots for track maintenance and signalling.
The new timetable has also cut out unnecessary delays on routes, reducing the travel time of over 500 trains by 30-60 minutes, leaving enough time for maintenance blocks.