Congress President Sonia Gandhi flagged off the first set of coaches from the modern Rs1,685 crore rail coach manufacturing factory inaugurated by her on Wednesday in her Raebareli parliamentary constituency.
The project was commissioned a few weeks after the Congress got the railway ministry go-ahead after nearly 16 years — a portfolio last held by former ally Trinamool Congress before its pullout of UPA in September.
The foundation stone for the Railway Coach Factory (RCF) — the biggest project in Rae Bareli and the third in the country — was laid in January 2009 just before Lok Sabha polls and the then BSP government in Uttar Pradesh had termed it as a "political gimmick" on the eve of polls to gain political mileage.
"I here want to mention those who spread rumours against the project...But it has been completed in such a short time", Gandhi said at the inaugural function at RCF in Lalganj.
The land for the project was initially denied to Railways, which had then blamed the BSP government for delaying the start of project. Stating that the factory would not only generate employment opportunities for locals but also ensure development of the area, Sonia said full compensation was given to farmers by the railways for their land.
"The regional industries are likely to grow and locals will find new employment opportunities", she added.
Before flagging off 20 coaches produced in the factory which would be used in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, Sonia inspected them and said she was feeling elated. "Railways on which 1.5 crore passengers travel daily is crucial for the economy of the country. It is the biggest employer in which over 15 lakh employees work", Gandhi said in the presence of railways minister Pawan Bansal.
Distributing appointment letters to 14 locals whose families have contributed their land for building the factory at Lalganj, Sonia said, "I have seen how people in far away places in Jammu and Kashmir were enthused when the service started there."
The country's largest public transporter had acquired 541 hectares of land for the factory, of which 283 hectares belonged to private land owners.
Once fully functional, 1,000 coaches are expected to be rolled out annually, said a railway ministry official, adding that these coaches would have higher carrying capacity and provides more comfort to passenger. Apart from resistance to corrosion, the coaches will be equipped with modular fittings, microprocessor controlled air-conditioning and environment-friendly controlled discharge toilet system.
Sonia also laid the foundation stones for doubling of Utrahtia-Rae Bareli rail section and modernisation of Rae Bareli station through development of a multi-functional complex. The concept of multi-functional complexes envisages better facilities for passengers such as shopping plaza, food stalls, book stalls, parking lots, restaurants, ATMs and variety stores at stations.
On the occasion, Bansal announced providing of stoppage to Padmavat Express at Bachharawan station and stoppage to Rae Bareli-Allahabad Intercity Express at Harchalpur station.