NEW DELHI: In a move that could help improve the financial health of the cash-strapped Railways, Minister D V Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday took the privatisation route to pull the bleeding organisation out of the red by proposing FDI and pursuing private-public partnership in big-ticket projects. It will also help build a high-speed train corridor and improve facilities and other amenities on platforms and in trains.
The Opposition was quick to criticise it, saying it was a move to privatise the Railways.
Refraining from making any new announcements and focusing on completing the 457 pending projects, Gowda announced 58 new trains, setting up of the Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail connecting major metros, bullet train on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and increasing the speed of existing trains to 160-200 km on nine routes.
More thrust was on passenger amenities (25 per cent budget increase from 2013-14), cleanliness (40 per cent rise from 2013-14), safety (12 per cent increase from 2013-14) and efficient station management.
After announcing a 14.2 per cent passenger fare hike in June, there was no further increase this time, but fares will be revised every six months based on the revision in fuel component. The Railways in 2014-15 have the highest-ever plan outlay of Rs 65,445 crore.
Presenting the budget in LS, Gowda said the, “The Ministry of Railways is seeking Cabinet approval to allow FDI in rail sector,” as its growth depends heavily on funds for investment in infrastructure. Internal revenue sources and government funding are insufficient to meet the requirement.
“There has been a lot of talk about public-private partnership for raising resources. It is my endeavour to pursue this in right earnestness. It is our target that the bulk of our future projects will be financed through the PPP mode, including the high-speed rail which requires huge investment,” Gowda said. FDI will be allowed in all sectors except rail operations.
As Gowda started announcing names of new trains, Trinamool Congress MPs came into the Well of the House shouting ‘Narendra Modi hay hay’, complaining that only one train has been announced for West Bengal.
The minister said most of the pending projects are from West Bengal and he is committed to complete all of them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of having a Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail connecting major metros and growth centres also got a push in the Budget.
The Railways is also trying to increase the speed of trains to 160-200 kmph in select sectors to significantly reduce travel time between major cities.
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