Kolkata, June 10: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday urged the West Bengal government to be a partner in developing railway stations in the state and said he would be very happy if Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee agrees to form a joint venture company with his department.  Prabhu, who called on Banerjee at the state secretariat “Nabanna” during the day, said so far 17 state governments have given the nod to float joint venture companies with the Ministry of Railways. The proposal was a highlight of the minister’s budget speech.Also Read - IRCTC Latest News: Railways Announces Special Festival Trains Ahead of Diwali, Chhath Puja | Full List Here

“It is up to the West Bengal government. We will be more than happy if the state government agrees to form a joint venture company,” Prabhu told mediapersons at the Press Club, Kolkata, when asked if the Banerjee government had agreed to be partner in the project.  Prabhu said he requested Banerjee to let her government work jointly in developing Railway Stations.  “I offered to the Chief Minister that there are stations that can be developed as a joint venture. The advantage, obviously is that the local ethos of that particular place can be reflected. Another advantage is that all the local permissions, which slow down project implementation, can be fast tracked,” he said.  ALSO READ: Suresh Prabhu urges state govts to join hands with Railways Also Read - West Bengal Witnesses Spike in COVID Cases, Officials Blame Guideline Violation During Durga Puja

The minister said the JV with the state government, formed on the basis of equity sharing, can undertake projects worth much more than the budget allocation.  Prabhu said this would bolster growth.  To buttress his point, the Railway Minister referred to Maharashtra, where the JV company is dealing with projects worth over Rs 19,000 crore.  Replying to a query on the law and order situation, particularly relating to the railways, he suggested the creation of a seamless policing agency. Presently, the Railway Protection Force – that secures railway property – is under the Railway Ministry. Also Read - Prayagraj-Udhampur Special Train - Check Fare And Features of AC 3-tier Economy Coach

But, the Government Railway Police, that ensures security in railway stations, reports to the state government.  Prabhu said the two ongoing Metro projects in the state – Joka-BBD Bag and Dum Dum-New Garia – are continuing “at a great pace”. He lauded the state government for its help in taking forward the projects.  “We are now working at a great pace. We have discussed in detail with our officers, therefore the overall idea is how we can develop the state’s infrastructure. Our aim is to bring about integration of urban transport.”  The Chief Minister said the Railway Ministry and the state government can work together. “We have to sort out some issues, but wherever there is a serious problem like those afflicting the Metro, and other pending work, we can take care of them.”

Regarding the East-West Metro project connecting Salt Lake Sector V with Howrah Maidan, she said “We want it to be completed as soon as possible. Joka-BBD bag and Airport-New Garia metros are necessary as they involve all the main routes.”  Meanwhile, Railway Board Chairman A.K. Mital said West Bengal was one of the beneficiaries of the railways’ capital expenditure programme.  “Capital outlay for Railways infrastructure projects in West Bengal was at Rs 2,907 crore in 2014-15, the same has been increased to Rs 4,000 crore in 2016-17 as per budgetary announcement.”  In 2015-16, more than 200 km of new lines and doubling works were completed and a similar sort of target is being persuaded for the current fiscal.