Namaskar! Telangana Governor Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan ji, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw ji, Union Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy ji, Telangana Ministers Mohammed Mahmood Ali Garu and T. Srinivas Yadav, my colleagues in Parliament and my friends Bandi Sanjay Garu and K. Laxman Garu, all other dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen!
In this festive atmosphere, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are getting a grand gift today. In a way, Vande Bharat Express is going to connect the shared culture and heritage of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. I congratulate the people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, especially the middle class, lower middle class and upper middle class people, of these states for the Vande Bharat train.
Today is also Army Day. Every Indian is proud of his army. The contribution and bravery of the Indian Army in the defence of the country, in protecting the borders of the country, is incomparable. I congratulate all the soldiers, ex-servicemen and their families.
The gaiety associated with Pongal, Magh Bihu, Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan festivals is visible everywhere. Like the major occasions and festivals connect the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Attock to Cuttack, similarly Vande Bharat train also provides opportunity to understand, know and connect various parts of the country in the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’. The Vande Bharat Express train also connects our shared culture and faith as a nation. This new train will connect cities like Hyderabad, Warangal, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. Many important places related to faith and tourism fall in this route. Therefore, devotees and tourists will also be greatly benefited by Vande Bharat Express. The travel time between Secunderabad and Visakhapatnam will also be reduced by this train.
Brothers and sisters,
Vande Bharat train has another feature. This train is a symbol of the resolve and potential of New India. It is a symbol of India, which is on the path of rapid change, an India which is impatient about its dreams and its aspirations, an India which wants to reach its goal by moving fast. This Vande Bharat Express symbolizes India which wants the best in everything. This Vande Bharat Express symbolizes India that wants to provide better facilities to its citizens. This Vande Bharat Express symbolizes India which is moving towards self-reliance by breaking the shackles of the mentality of slavery.
It is also worth noting the speed with which Vande Bharat is expanding. The Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam Vande Bharat is the first train in 2023. And you will be happy that this is the second Vande Bharat train which has been launched in the country within 15 days. This shows how fast the Vande Bharat campaign in India is realizing the change on the ground. The Vande Bharat train has been designed and built in India. Innumerable videos of its speed have captured the hearts and minds of the people and dominate the social media. I will present another statistic which is very interesting. In the last few years, seven Vande Bharat trains have covered a total distance of 23 lakh kilometers. This is equivalent to circumambulating earth 58 times. So far, more than 40 lakh passengers have travelled by these trains. The time saved by the people travelling in these trains is also unparalleled.
Brothers and sisters,
Connectivity has a direct relation with speed and both of them have a direct bearing on development. Connectivity infrastructure not only connects two places, but it also connects dreams to reality. It connects manufacturing with the market and talent with the right platform. Connectivity expands the possibilities of development with it. That is, where there is ‘Gati’ (speed) there is ‘Pragati’ (progress) and when there is progress, prosperity is certain. We have also seen the time when very few people used to get the benefit of development and modern connectivity in our country. As a result, the time of a large population in the country was spent only in commuting and transport and the common citizen, the middle class people, suffered a lot. Today, India is moving forward leaving behind that old approach. In today's India, rapid efforts are underway to connect everyone with ‘Gati’ and ‘Pragati’. The Vande Bharat train is a big proof of this.
When there is a will, even the most difficult of goals can be achieved. We have seen how until 8 years ago, disappointment related to the Indian Railways was writ large. The people of the country had accepted that improvement in Indian Railways was impossible with sluggish speed, heaps of filth, complaints related to ticket booking and accidents occurring on a daily basis. Excuses regarding lack of budget were often cited in developing new infrastructure of the railways.
We decided to address this challenge with clear and honest intentions. This is also the mantra behind the transformation of Indian Railways in the last eight years. Today travelling in Indian Railways has become a pleasant experience. There are many railway stations in the country where one can see the picture of modern India. The initiatives that our government has started in the last 7-8 years are going to transform the Indian Railways in the next 7-8 years. Today there are Vistadome coaches and heritage trains to promote tourism. Kisan Rails were launched to take the produce of the farmers to far-flung markets. The work on the Special Freight Corridor for goods trains is going on at a fast pace. Metro network is expanding in more than two dozen new cities to improve public transport in the country. Rapid work is also underway on futuristic systems like Regional Rapid Transit System in the country.
Brothers and sisters,
There has been unprecedented work regarding the railways in the last eight years in Telangana. Telangana had a budget of less than Rs 250 crore for the Railways in the eight years prior to 2014, whereas today this budget has increased to Rs.3000 crores. Many areas of Telangana like Medak have been connected by rail service for the first time. In the eight years before 2014, less than 125 kilometers of new rail lines were built in Telangana, while we have completed about 325 kms of new rail lines in Telangana in the last eight years. The 'track multi-tracking' of more than 250 kilometers has also been completed in Telangana in the last eight years. Electrification of railway tracks in Telangana has happened more than three times during this period. Very soon we are going to complete the electrification work on all broad gauge routes in Telangana.
The Vande Bharat launched today is also connected to Andhra Pradesh from one end. The Central Government is continuously working to strengthen the rail network in Andhra Pradesh. New railway lines are being laid in Andhra Pradesh many times faster than before 2014. In the past few years, construction of 350 kilometers of new railway lines and about 800 kilometers of multi-tracking has been completed in Andhra Pradesh. During the previous government, 60 kilometers of railway tracks were electrified annually in Andhra Pradesh. Now this has also increased to more than 220 kms annually. These efforts of the Central Government are improving the Ease of Living of the people as well as progressively increasing the Ease of Doing Business. This process of speed and progress will continue like this. With this belief, I once again congratulate Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for the Vande Bharat Express train and wish the passengers all the best. Thanks a lot!